After 17 years at the helm, comedian and class act, Jay Leno, relinquished his role as host of the “Tonight Show” on Friday night. The Andover, MA raised and Emerson College educated stand-up star, who received a degree in speech therapy, first took over hosting duties from Johnny Carson back in 1992. After years of delivering laughs through such significant events as September 11th, the O.J. Simpson trial, Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, not even a writers’ strike stopped the infamous work-a-holic from providing the American viewing audience with their nightly chuckle. Over the years, the show itself was not without its own significant moments. In September of 2000, the “Tonight Show Unplugged” aired sans Hollywood lighting, and relied only on candles and flashlights. He also can lay claim to hosting the only time a sitting U.S. president has appeared on a late night talk show.
On his final show, Leno posed on stage with the 68 children that were born to staffers during his tenure. Choking up briefly, he stated that he wished for part of his legacy to be the fact that these children were born as a result of their parents meeting while working on the show. Despite the exit, Leno is not disappearing from nightly TV, nor the NBC network. He’s set to return at a slightly earlier timeslot this fall, on the tentatively (yet appropriately) titled “The Jay Leno Show”. Keeping it all in the MA family, the late night funny man has passed the torch to Brookline bred Conan O’Brien, who made his first appearance as host on Monday night. Watch Leno discuss his early days as a stand-up comedian at Lennie’s on the Turnpike and the Beachcomber in Revere, MA.