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Saying Goodbye to David Letterman: A Look Back at His 33-Year Legacy

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Saying Goodbye to David Letterman: A Look Back at His 33-Year Legacy

Originally posted 05/20/2015 04:00PM

When NBC handed David Letterman Late Night in 1982, his offbeat humor ushered in a new era of late night.

Thirty-three years later, he's stepping down from a late-night landscape that changed around him, having stayed true to himself as the medium changed from appointment viewing to something to be easily digested the next morning in three- to four-minute clips.

"I recognized the value of it," Letterman told The New York Times back in April of his competitors' tendency to gear their shows toward digital audiences. "It's just, I didn't know what to say. You go back to your parents' house, and they still have the rotary phone. It's a little like that."

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Credit: Chris Haston/NBC
Stars Tweet, Instagram Farewells to Jay Leno | Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon

Farewell, Jay Leno: Celebrities Tweet Their Goodbyes

Originally posted 02/07/2014 10:30AM

After 22 years interviewing the best in Hollywood, Jay Leno was bound to make a few A-list pals.

His final Tonight Show broadcast was full of special celebrity guests, and stars who couldn't join in the festivities sent Leno love through social media.

Sure, rival Conan O'Brien allowed himself one solid wisecrack during his own show: "The Olympics start airing tonight on NBC. It's very cool. That's right: NBC has the Olympics. It's a big deal. NBC will finally get to show somebody who is okay with passing the torch."

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The Best of Jay Leno's 22 Years Behind the Tonight Show Desk | The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Hugh Grant, Jay Leno

UpdatePosted 02/07/2014 07:00AM

The Best of Jay Leno's 22 Years Behind the Tonight Show Desk

Originally posted 02/06/2014 12:00PM

In his 22 years hosting The Tonight Show, Jay Leno crafted a winning formula: a bit of silliness, crossed with snark, and delivered with an utter lack of pretension.

As Leno prepares to hang up his Tonight Show spurs Thursday night, let's look back on some of the highlights of his decades-long tenure, from his news-making interviews to his 4,600 jokes about Bill Clinton:

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Credit: Chris Haston/NBC
PEOPLE's TV Critic: So Long, Farewell, Jay Leno – But It Was Time to Say Goodbye | Jay Leno

PEOPLE's TV Critic: So Long, Farewell, Jay Leno – But It Was Time to Say Goodbye

Originally posted 02/07/2014 06:15AM

Jay Leno left NBC's The Tonight Show after 22 years Thursday night with a farewell that included old friends Billy Crystal and Garth Brooks and – the one big stunt – a large surprise ensemble of guests (Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian, Jack Black) singing novelty lyrics to "So Long, Farewell" from The Sound of Music.

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Jay Leno Bids Tearful Goodbye to Tonight Show After 22 Years | Billy Crystal, Jay Leno

Jay Leno Bids Tearful Goodbye to Tonight Show After 22 Years

Originally posted 02/06/2014 10:00PM

Even on a bittersweet night, there had to be jokes.

Jay Leno has hosted The Tonight Show for a loooooong time. So tell us, Jay, how long was it?

"Here's how long," he said Thursday. "When I started hosting, marijuana was illegal and you could smoke cigarettes anywhere you wanted."

Actually, it was 22 years since he took over for Johnny Carson at NBC's venerable late-night show from beautiful downtown Burbank, not counting seven disastrous months in 2009 when Conan O'Brien helmed the program.

Now leaving a second time to make way for a new host – Jimmy Fallon – and a new city – New York – Leno, 63, said on his final show that this time it was his decision.

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Sandra Bullock Bids Jay Leno a Tearful Goodbye (VIDEO) | Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock Bids Jay Leno a Tearful Goodbye (VIDEO)

Originally posted 02/06/2014 10:05AM

Play testcaption testcredit Share on Facebook Tweet Pin on Pinterest Share on Tumblr Sandra Bullock appeared on The Tonight Show Wednesday to say goodbye to Jay Leno, and couldn't help herself from tearing up a little.

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Watch Jimmy Fallon's Sincere 'Thank You' to Jay Leno on The Tonight Show | Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon

Watch Jimmy Fallon's Sincere 'Thank You' to Jay Leno on The Tonight Show

Originally posted 02/04/2014 11:45AM

Jimmy Fallon is known for his sarcastic "thank you" notes, but there was no snark in his emotional tribute to Jay Leno Monday.

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Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/Getty
Miley Cyrus Offers Legal Advice to Justin Bieber: 'Party at Your House' | Miley Cyrus

UpdatePosted 01/31/2014 10:15AM

Miley Cyrus Offers Legal Advice to Justin Bieber: 'Party at Your House'

Originally posted 01/31/2014 08:00AM

Miley Cyrus has plenty to say about fellow newsmaker Justin Bieber's legal woes. The "Wrecking Ball" singer went on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Thursday to offer Bieber advice on how to have fun and stay out of jail.

"You pay people to make sure you don't get in trouble – and party at your house. Buy a house, and add a club to it," Cyrus suggested. Proof her plan works?

"I don't see a Miley mug shot yet," she added.

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Credit: Michael Rozman/ Warner Bros.
Jay Leno on Leaving The Tonight Show: 'I Can Go Out on a School Night' | The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Leno

Jay Leno on Leaving The Tonight Show: 'I Can Go Out on a School Night'

Originally posted 01/29/2014 03:00PM

There's one thing Jay Leno is looking forward to doing when he leaves The Tonight Show on Feb. 6 – going out on a weeknight instead of staying home and working on the following day's monologue.

"I can go out on a school night, which I've never been able to do," he said during an interview set to air on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Wednesday. "I've never been out in 22 years on a Wednesday night. It's like, 'Oh you're doing something wrong. You have to go home and write jokes every single night.' "

While he's 63, Leno isn't retiring anytime soon. Instead he's going back to his roots as a stand-up comedian.

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In a Pickle: Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers Pass the Late Night 'Torch'

UpdatePosted 01/29/2014 12:00PM

Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers Pass the Late Night Torch – in Hilarious Fashion

Originally posted 01/29/2014 09:00AM

Seth Meyers is preparing to take the reins of Late Night from Jimmy Fallon when the latter moves to The Tonight Show, and Fallon had his successor on the show Tuesday night for an important tradition: the passing of the Late Night pickle.

This isn't just Fallon being Fallon, however: Apparently it's a real, longstanding Late Night tradition. David Letterman's staff gave the pickle to Conan O'Brien when he inherited the show, and O'Brien gave it to Fallon when he took over.

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