It's fair to say Jay Leno hasn't had the most fantastic amount of press over the past few years. Despite his long, successful career as a stand-up comedian and being the host of (consistently) the highest rated late night talk show,The Tonight Show, for over two decades; when you mention the word 'Conan' it still leaves a bad taste.
A few years back Leno announced, after apparent coercing from upper NBC brass, that he was moving on to be replaced by the popular, younger Conan O'Brien - who was being chased by other networks to rival his 11.30 slot. Long story short, NBC didn't want to lose Leno either so gave him an earlier, disconcertingly similar slot at 10pm and took the wind out of Conan's sails as he didn't have much in the way of a lead-in after The Jay Leno Show bombed in the ratings (Leno would've had expensive prime time fare during his Tonight Show run).
In a desperate, ill-fated attempt to keep everyone happy, NBC decided to push Conan's version of The Tonight Show until after midnight, somewhat hilariously causing Conan to quip "well, it's tomorrow." Conan bounced to PBS where he continues to thrive and Leno came back to his old slot - until it was announced that the chap who took over from Conan (Jaysus this is incestuous) Jimmy Fallon, would be the new host of The Tonight Show. We know, exhausting!
Last night was Leno's final show in the hot seat and a rake of the famous and powerful turned up to wish him well - including Ireland's honorary president, Garth Brooks. While there were certainly tears, particularly in the final speech (see below), there were also a lot of laughs (er, see below that other below).
While we'll admit to being far bigger fans of Conan, Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart and, indeed, Leno's old pal and rival, David Letterman, we still have a huge amount of respect for the man - he's been pretty much number one in the ratings for his entire run and is going out firmly on top.
Enjoy your retirement, Jay!