Let me say something in complete honesty: I have never watched a full episode of The Tonight Show. I mean, I get why people like it, or at least intellectually I do: Jay Leno is a man of the people! He loves cars! His jokes appeal to the lowest common denominator and his sketches are so completely innocuous as to not offend anyone (except the celebrated figures they mock,) that they actually transcend themselves to pieces of bizarre performance art.
But as Leno left his perch as the host of The Tonight Show for the third time last night–waved off the stage by a host of celebrity friends and MC’d in the most ridiculous music segment of all time by Billy Crystal–I just had to pause for a second. This is a time for reflection, to actually sit and look at the broad expanse of 5,742 shows (approximately) and ask “What the hell WAS that?”
Like, what is going on here? Someone explain this to me, I don’t get it. How much does Kim Kardashian care about Jay Leno? If the goal was to pick celebrities who have known Jay the longest, why go with a woman who says herself that their only interactions have been to be the butt (LOL) of his opening monologues? Why is this done in a Sound of Music parody? Who are these people, this self-selecting majority of the late-night viewing public, who have voluntarily watched routines like this for so many years?
Just to take another example, here was Leno’s final monologue:
That drum-roll is so distracting. Was that always the drum-roll? Maybe I’m being too nitpick-y, but I watched half of the last The Tonight Show with Jay Leno yesterday for the novelty of being part of television history or whatever, but I couldn’t even make it through the whole thing. The only LOL-able moment of the evening was in the video segment of celebrities saying what Leno should do after he leaves the show, and Mark Wahlberg not understanding the question: “Why should I care what the hell he does?”
Pretty much. Look, I don’t want to be flippant. I know Jay Leno’s legacy on The Tonight Show is the stuff of legend. But after this guy, Fallon’s pop-heavy sketches and social media-savvy are going to be a welcome relief. Goodbye, Jay Leno. I hope you get to continue doing whatever it is you love, like riding around in your cars, talking to celebrities. Hey, I might even know someone I can set you up with.