By Emily Bodden, Daily Arts Writer
Published February 4, 2014
After 21 years of hosting “The Tonight Show,” Jay Leno said goodbye on Thursday. Jimmy Fallon will be taking over on Feb. 17 while fellow SNL-alum Seth Meyers will begin “Late Night with Seth Meyers” on Feb. 24. Much like the 2009-2010 hiatus, during which Conan O’Brien hosted, Leno seems less than happy about the change. In his final Monday episode, Leno brought on his successor to interview. Unsurprisingly, awkward moments ensued.
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The opening monologue reminded me why I don’t watch Jay Leno on a regular basis. There is a reason that while his viewership has been so strong in the past, he simply does not appeal to me, a millennial college kid. The most cringe worthy moment (even worse than the offensive intro to a Turkish news clip) was when he spoke about Jimmy Fallon. While announcing his guest, he tried to appear good humored, but just came off as bitter. “I heard Jimmy Fallon has a new job … maybe he’ll tell us about it,” Jay said. No Jay, don’t pretend you are indifferent — it is not charming.
Luckily, Jimmy Fallon was his lovable, cute self, which abated some of the tension. From the moment that he stepped onto set, he kept everything very light. Leno whispered something in his ear, and Fallon jokingly fell to the ground feigning being attacked. By poking fun at the situation, it seemed like Fallon was signaling to the audience that all of the talk surrounding them is elevated.
During their interview, Jay Leno brought up Fallon’s six-month-old daughter, Winnie. It was as cute as it sounds and allowed a normal interaction between the two men, until Jay went and messed it up with an uncomfortable arm touch and a strange joke about “50 Shades of Grey.”
Later on, Leno pulled out a video of the first time he interviewed Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy was wearing a three-piece suit and rocked a bad haircut. The video showed how long the two have known each other, and this theme continued as they did a “Thank You Notes” segment (a staple of Fallon’s “Late Night”). Jimmy wrote all of the notes to Jay, and what could have gone terribly wrong instead came off as sincere and gracious. Jimmy began joking about Jay training him as a late-night host, saying he made him wax on, wax off his entire car collection, and transitioned to a very nice thank you for all that he has given in his time as a host.
These nice sentiments were quickly forgotten when Leno made a comment to Betty White that made me gasp. After a nice interview with her, he brought up how active her career still is at 92. He then proceeded to make a jab at NBC, saying that they would never allow someone that old to do two shows a night. Obviously he is upset about losing his show, but does he need to mourn the end of his reign so aggressively and publicly?
While I’m excited to see what Jimmy Fallon does with “The Tonight Show,” and how Seth Meyers adjusts to “Late Night,” I am sad to see Leno leaving in such an undignified way. He may not be my favorite late-night host but his legacy deserves to be honored. I wish him all the best as he figures out his next step. In the mean time, I’ll be watching Fallon and Meyers, and I am expecting great things.