Conan O'Brien, who briefly replaced Leno on Tonight during the 2009-10 late-night shakeup, zinged in his monologue on Conan: "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 OK with passing the torch."
"I allowed myself one, but it was a good one," O'Brien added.
David Letterman, Leno's longtime rival, eschewed jokes in favor of earnest advice. "Congratulations on a wonderful run, and I'll tell you something — If I was Jay Leno and I was retiring, you know what I would do? I'd go out and buy myself a car."
Leno's replacement Jimmy Fallon, who takes over Tonight on Monday, Feb. 17, honored the late-night legend with a classic dig at NBC's ratings woes. "To Jay, we say thank you very much. He's been a great guy. We're going to miss him," Fallon said. "The ratings have been so good this last week because it's his last week that NBC is going to extend his week — so we're going to have another week of saying goodbye to Jay Leno."
Arsenio Hall paid tribute to Leno's two-decade career with a good old fashioned sports metaphor. "I can't believe he's going. Here's the crazy thing: forget everything you've heard. He's No. 1 and they're getting rid of the No. 1 guy. It shows that the business is really changing," Hall said. "He's the Michael Jordan of late night. That's like somebody saying, 'Hey, Mike! Put your tongue back in your mouth and get out of here!' It's pretty crazy, but we love him. He's the living legend of late-night. Let's give him a big round of applause."
Jimmy Kimmel, whose Thursday episode was a pre-taped interview with theMonuments Men cast, shared his congratulations to the host via Twitter, writing: "Issues aside, 20 years at #1 is a remarkable achievement. Congratulations and best wishes to @jayleno on an incredible run"