Jay Leno gestures during the opening monologue at the inauguration of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" which was broadcast live on the east coast from NBC Studios in Burbank, Calif., May 25, 1992. The show features a new band with jazz musician Branford Marsalis as musical director. Leno's first guests were comedian Billy Crystal and singer Shanice. (AP Photo/Craig Fujii)Jay Leno’s Top 10 ‘Tonight Show’ moments
Jay Leno will be on stage Friday in front of a capacity crowd at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, a mere day after leaving, for the second time, “The Tonight Show.” Leno, who has ruled the late night ratings wars for most of his career, leaves behind one of the greatest legacies in the history of television. To commemorate the 63-year-old’s amazing run, we are borrowing a bit from the playbook of his former nemesis David Letterman. Here’s a “Top Ten,” in chronological order, of the defining moments of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
AP Photo/Craig Fujii1. Billy Crystal sings hello (May, 1992)
Billy Crystal, the first guest on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” looks into the eyes of the host and croons the hilarious “Dear Mr. Leno.” No word as of this morning on what Crystal might sing when he appears as Leno’s final guest.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa2. “Cheers” cast drunk (May, 1993)
Leno does a live show from Boston's Bull and Finch pub the night "Cheers" goes off the air and pretty much the whole cast of the sitcom is totally hammered. Good times!
AP Photo/Eric Draper3. Hugh Grant humiliated (July, 1995)
Hugh Grant, the handsome British actor dating hottie Elizabeth Hurley, chooses "The Tonight Show” to make his first public appearance after his arrest involving a prostitute. Leno asks the perfect, no-brainer: “What the hell were you thinking?”
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes4. Passion of the Gibson (May, 1997)
Mel Gibson goes all Roman soldier on Leno and sneak slams the host in the face with a cake to celebrate Leno’s fifth year at the helm of "The Tonight Show." In 2012, Gibson would surprise absolutely no one by telling Leno he’s got “a little bit of a temper.”
AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian5. The Governator (August, 2003)
Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t joking with Leno when he announces he will run for governor of California. In a twist less believable than the plots of his movies, Schwarzenegger wins
AP Photo/NBC Universal, Margaret Norton6. Last laugh with Michael Jackson jokes (March, 2005)
Leno, subpoenaed for Michael Jackson's trial and barred from discussing it outside court, gets the last laugh. Smirking but silent, he stands by while celebrity guests such as Roseanne Barr deliver Jackson jokes during the monologue.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert7. Dear Mr. President (March, 2009)
President Barack Obama charms Leno and a slim majority of his viewers while becoming the first sitting president to be a guest on “The Tonight Show.” The New York Times extols the president’s performance, calling it “a fireside chat for the flat screen age.”
AP Photo/NBC, Paul Drinkwater8. First final taping, with Conan (May, 2009)
Conan O'Brien is interviewed by Leno during Leno's final taping as host of “The Tonight Show.” You know, because O'Brien is taking over.
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes9. Leno returns (March, 2010)
“The Jay Leno Show” ends after a short run in February of 2010 and next month O’Brien is out and Leno is back as host of "The Tonight Show." Many people, especially comedians, will never forgive Leno for this move.
AP Photo/NBC, Paul Drinkwater10. Fallon to replace Leno (April, 2013)
NBC announces in April that Jimmy Fallon will succeed Leno as the host of “The Tonight Show” following the 2014 Winter Olympics. Fallon and Leno appear together during the Golden Globe Awards in January and Fallon whispers: “Please, Jay, don’t Conan O’Brien me.”
Leno’s ‘Tonight Show’ Top 10
/ Wednesday, February 5, 2014