Jay Leno's Final "Tonight Show" Ratings: Biggest Audience Since 1998

By Chris Harnick
|  Friday, Feb 7, 2014  |  Updated 5:07 PM EDT
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    Jay Leno's last "Tonight Show" was one for the ratings record books. The host's last episode brought in 14.6 million viewers, the show's biggest audience since the night "Seinfeld" ended in May 1998.

    Leno's farewell is the fourth biggest "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" telecast, only bested by the episode following the "Cheers" finale (May 1993, 22.4 million viewers), Leno's debut (May 1992, 16.1 million viewers) and the aforementioned post-"Seinfeld" finale episode (15 million viewers).

    Leno's last "Tonight Show" featured a bevy of special guests, including Carol Burnett, Kim Kardashian, Oprah Winfrey and Jim Parsons. Billy Crystal, who was Leno's first "Tonight Show" guest, was also one of his last.

    Leno's last opening monologue featured shots at Justin Bieber and Hugh Grant, but it was his goodbye that got the waterworks going.

    NEWS: Kim Kardashian Surprises Jay Leno on His Final "Tonight Show," Joins Oprah, Jim Parsons, President Obama and More

    "This is the hard part," Leno said. "This is tricky. I have to thank the audience. We wouldn't be on the air without you people. This has been the greatest 22-years of my life. I am the luckiest guy in the world. I got to meet presidents, astronauts, movie stars. It's just been incredible. I got to work with lighting people, who made me look better than I really am. I got to work with audio people who make me sound better than I really do. And I got to work with producers and directors, and just all kinds of talent people. They made me look a lot smarter than I really am."

    Jimmy Fallon will take over "The Tonight Show" on Monday, Feb. 17. Late Night with Seth Meyers will premiere Monday, Feb. 24 on NBC.

    (E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

    PHOTOS: Late-night talk show hosts

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