David Letterman Congratulates Jay Leno For 22 “Wonderful” Years at The Tonight Show

David Letterman and Jay Leno
David Letterman discussed Jay Leno's last episode of The Tonight Show on Thursday, Feb. 6 -- see what he had to say CBS; Paul Drinkwater (inset)

This hatchet has officially been buried. Jay Leno said goodbye to viewers last night, as he wrapped up his final Tonight Show episode after hosting the legendary NBC program for 22 years. Several stars celebrated the achievement, and fellow host and former rival David Letterman was among those to wish him well.

"As with the world, tonight is a big night for change in late night television. Our friend Jay Leno — 22 years as host of The Tonight Show. Twenty-two years, that's remarkable isn't it?" Letterman, 66, said on his Late Show on Thursday, Feb. 6. "He began in 1992 on The Tonight Show and February 17, which I guess is after the Olympics, Jimmy Fallon — our little buddy Jimmy Fallon — will be replacing Jay. Jay was on our show — the old Late Night Show — over 40 times." 

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"He was a host on The Tonight Show for 22 years and now retiring," he continued. "Congratulations on a wonderful run."

Letterman and Leno, 63, have come a long way since Leno first replaced Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. When it came time to replace Carson in 1992, the seat was famously taken by Leno instead of Letterman, whom many thought should have been the next in line.

"If I was Jay Leno and I was retiring, you know what I would do? I'd buy myself a car," Letterman joked last night. "So good luck — job well done." (Leno has long been known for having an impressive car collection.)

But for another late night host, the goodbye was more bitter than sweet. "The Olympics start airing tonight on NBC. It's very cool. That's right, NBC has the Olympics," Conan O'Brien, 50, said during his monologue on Feb. 6. "It's a big deal. NBC will finally get to show somebody who is OK with passing the torch." Leno, of course, famously took back the Tonight Show hosting duties less than a year after O'Brien replaced him back in 2009.

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