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Jay Leno set for low-key "Tonight Show" farewell

It's the end of a television era.

Jay Leno is set to sign off for the final time on NBC's "The Tonight Show" Thursday night, 22 years after he first took over the reins from Johnny Carson.

Fellow comedian Billy Crystal will help bookend Leno's tenure. He was the late-night host's very first guest in 1992, and he'll also be the last. 

One of Leno's favorite recording artists, Garth Brooks, is expected to perform during the grand finale.

Leno's writing staff has spent weeks working on the final show, but for the most part, things will be relatively subdued as the milestone farewell unfolds.

"This is my second time winding down," Leno recently pointed out to "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft, referring to his much-publicized spat with Conan O'Brien.

O'Brien took over as host of "The Tonight Show" in 2009, only to be replaced by his predecessor less than a year later due to sagging viewership.

Leno quickly helped get the show back to its No. 1 spot in the ratings, a position its held throughout most of his reign. While some have criticized him for his perceived bland humor, the funnyman has been able to resonate with Middle America.

Now 63, Leno is being replaced once again by a younger face, current "Late Night" host Jimmy Fallon, 39, marking a shift in changing tastes and demographics.

Late-night hosts like Fallon and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel have turned to avenues such as social media in keeping up with the times, whereas Leno hasn't had the same online resonance that some of his younger contemporaries have had.

 

 Leno told Kroft that he doesn't expect to have to take over for Fallon as he did with O'Brien.

"This is a lot different situation," Leno said.

"I really like Jimmy Fallon. I think he's terrific. You know, when I see him do a dance number with, you know, Justin Timberlake or somebody, I go, 'I can't do that.'"

In addition to the change in host, "The Tonight Show" will also be moving its taping location from Burbank, Calif., to New York.

Leno says he plans to spend more time with wife Mavis once he steps down from his post. He's also going to work on his car and motorcycle collection, which takes up two full hangars at a Burbank airport.

While Leno says he has no plans to host another late-night show, he's not done with comedy just yet. 

Leno will still continue making stand-up appearances in comedy clubs across the country. He even has a gig lined up just one day after his "Tonight Show" swan song.

He will perform at the Van Wenzel Performing Arts Center in Sarasota, Fla., on Feb. 7.

Tell us: Are you sad to see Jay go?

  • Ken Lombardi On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Ken Lombardi is an entertainment reporter for CBS News. He has interviewed over 300 celebrities, including Clint Eastwood, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks.