“Fortunes have been lost underestimating Jay Leno.”
That’s what Lorne Michaels, creator and head of Saturday Night Live, had to say about The Tonight Show host.
The now 63-year-old Leno will call tonight’s show his last after a 22 year run, handing over the reigns to 39-year-old Jimmy Fallon.
Fallon will take over the show on February 17th, with a whole host of material from the 2014 Olympic Winter Games to ride on.
Fallon’s takeover has not been as smooth as he would like: he will be moving the show from Los Angeles back to NYC, causing 164 west coast Tonight Show staffers to lose their jobs.
According to Fox News, Leno said “It’s been a wonderful job. This is the right time to leave,” and wishes to make room for the next generation of late-night comedians.
This was not the first time Leno left the show (he took a brief hiatus in 2009 for Conan O’Brien to take over but quickly returned) but this time he will definitely not be returning.
So, what’s next for Leno you may ask?
All that is known so far is that he will continue his standup comedy tour. NBC News is speculating that he may land a show on NBC (again), USA, Fox News, CNN, TV Land, History, or Discovery.
No matter where Leno ends up, however, he leaves big shoes to fill. His late-night talk show was a landmark of broadcast television and will not easily be forgotten, just like the man himself.
Update 2/17: According to the Hollywood Reporter, Leno’s final show earned him a 9.2 rating and a 22 share, bringing the largest audience since President Barack Obama was on the show in 2009.
Some of Leno’s final guests included Billy Crystal, Oprah, Carol Burnett, Jim Parsons, Miley Cyrus, Jack Black, Kim Kardashian, and Garth Brooks.
Leno ended the show with, “I bid you all a heartfelt goodnight.”