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From the Right: An end of an era

Leno says goodnight

TNH Columnist

Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 02:02

Jay Leno’s final sign off from “The Tonight Show” signals the changing of the guard. I, for one, am sad to see Jay go.

In a crowded field of late night hosts Leno always reigned supreme as No. 1 for the 11:30 p.m. timeslot. I’m of mixed feelings over Jimmy Fallon taking the reins of “The Tonight Show,” but I understand that change is the law of life. The succession from Jay to Jimmy is a generational shift that is occurring across the country. The baby boomers are slowly fading into the history books and the millennial generation is taking center stage. All eras end regardless, and for Leno this truly is the end of an era of a comedian who, unlike the others, seemed to have his finger on the pulse and mood of the country. And that is what I will miss most of all. 

To the comics, the Lettermans and Conans of the world, Leno’s swansong is probably welcomed. To the critics who have riddled him for being bland, unfunny and cautious, it is probably also a welcome departure. But to middle America, “The Tonight Show” without Jay Leno calls for a moment of reflection.

In the elitist circles Leno was never the favorite standup guy, but that’s not whom he spoke to and not to whom his jokes were directed. Leno spoke to the heart of the country, where it mattered. In a 22-year career that spanned from George H.W. Bush to Barack Obama, Jay Leno knew how to make us laugh. 

In an age where comedians now are tepid when it comes to poking fun at our leaders, Leno did it with style and always in a non-partisan fashion. No president bore the blunt of Leno’s joke more than Bill Clinton, with Bush and Obama not far behind. I can’t describe what it was like only to say that when the announcer blared “…It’s the Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and he stepped out to deliver the opening monologue, you could always count on a laugh.  For 22 years he kept the laughs coming. He was the king of late night and will be a tough act to follow, but I do believe he will never be replaced. In the pantheon on late night TV, Jay Leno is among the greats.

As expected, his best jokes came at the expense of our elected officials. From presidents to senators and celebrities alike, no one was off limits, and for the past few weeks some of his best jabs over the course of his career have been replayed over and over, reminding us of the many laughs: 

“I can tell you how confident Sarah Palin is [running for president]: she’s already started writing her inaugural address on her hand.” 

“Tomorrow, America will get to hear those four words we’ve been waiting for: ‘former President George Bush.’ President Bush said he is leaving Washington with his head held high, because it’s the best way to spot shoes that are coming at you.”

“Looks like Barack Obama has won the nomination. Congratulations. And Hillary Clinton is about to drop out officially. That means Bill Clinton’s about to hear those three words he’s been dreading: ‘Honey, I’m home!’”

“Bieber told police he had consumed alcohol, smoked marijuana and taken some prescription drugs. Or as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford calls that, a light snack.”

“You want to be careful if you gamble on the Super Bowl. Last year I made a bet with Jimmy Fallon. I think we know how that turned out.”

Suffice it to say, Jay Leno will be missed and “The Tonight Show” without him will make 11:30 p.m. a much different time slot. He departs at the top, leading as he has for 22 years as No. 1. Though as he said in his final show on Feb. 6 “It really is time to go,” and what a better way than to go out on top.

Like any great comedian, Leno knows his place and to leave them wanting more. So, thank you Jay. Thank you for the laughs. As America’s true funny and true every man, you will be missed.

Though as it is often said it is not good-bye, but so long for now.

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