You laughed, he cried… overall, even Jay Leno's detractors have to admit his "Tonight Show" finale Thursday was a heartfelt affair that avoided treacly sentiments and sent him off in a celebratory style. In fact, a whopping 14.6 million viewers tuned in for the festivities, Leno's biggest audience since 1998.
But, we still have some questions about the finale. Like …
1. Kim Kardashian… why was she there?
Kardashian has been a frequent "Tonight Show" guest, with the appearance on the Leno finale marking her 11th guest spot since 2010. She also appeared on three episodes of Leno's short-lived primetime series, "The Jay Leno Show," and has also been a guest on "Late Show With David Letterman," "Conan," "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," and "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon."
Of course, she was also a ripe source of monologue material for Leno, with a recent Center for Media and Public Affairs study reporting that Leno had told 37 jokes about her during her relatively short (it just feels longer) time on our pop-culture radars. Kardashian's reality series also airs on E!, which shares a parent company with NBC, so putting it all together, despite her off-key warbling and the studio audience's lack of enthusiasm when she appeared onstage during the "So Long, Farewell" number, Kardashian was included in the finale simply because she is a frequent and popular (at least among talk show bookers) late night guest. (Officially, NBC has yet to respond to a request for comment on the finale guest celebs).
[Related: Kim Kardashian Goes Back to Brunette]
To put it in a harsher light, we probably just have to accept it, America… there are going to be Kardashians afoot on our TV shows, in our magazines, and everywhere in our pop culture for the foreseeable future.
2. Martha Stewart… "hall pass"? Bacon bikini? No.
Stewart has been a frequent "Tonight Show" guest, popping in for 13 appearances during Leno's run. Did she perhaps develop a little crush on Mavis Leno's man in that time? Does that explain why she would have made that creepy suggestion that she would don a bacon bikini for Leno if Mavis ever granted him a "hall pass"?
We're not knocking the 72-year-old domestic doyenne… Stewart is one of the most vibrant 72-year-olds any of us knows, we're sure. And though we certainly get the humor of her playing against her buttoned-up image, that bacon visual is just something nobody needed to be left with at the end of the night. As @laleviner tweeted:
The time Martha Stewart propositioned Jay Leno and everyone in America decided to keep kosher. pic.twitter.com/DNvZACT3Rd— Le Vine (@laleviner) February 7, 2014
Martha might have good luck with that bakini on her Match.com adventures, though.
3. Kimmel played nice, Arsenio played nice… even Letterman played nice. Why couldn't Conan O'Brien?
Leno's rivals, who at various times have been quite publicly critical of him, mostly had nice things to say about him on Thursday, from an Arsenio Hall tribute during his own late-night show to a Jimmy Kimmel tweet congratulating Jay and sending him his best wishes.
Heck, even David Letterman, who lost the "Tonight Show" hosting gig to Leno in 1992, made a point of giving Leno a shout-out on his Thursday night "Late Show."
"Our friend Jay Leno, 22 years as host of 'The Tonight Show.' Twenty-two years, that's remarkable, isn't it?" Letterman said. "He began in 1992 on 'The Tonight Show,' and Feb. 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. He was a host on 'The Tonight Show' for 22 years and is now retiring. Congratulations on a wonderful run."
Then he joked, with a nod to Leno's famous car collection: "If I was Jay Leno, and I was retiring, you know what I would do? I'd buy myself a car … So good luck — job well done."
And then there was Conan, who was replaced by Leno as "Tonight Show" host in 2009 after O'Brien's own stint hosting the late-night classic lasted less than eight months. O'Brien, in case you were wondering, is definitely still bitter about the Leno/"Tonight Show" kerfuffle. During his monologue on his TBS late-night series Thursday, O'Brien said, "The Olympics start airing tonight on NBC. That's right — NBC has the Olympics. It's a big deal. NBC will finally get to show somebody who's OK with passing the torch."
Aw, Coco. You're hosting your own series. On Thursday, you had the cast of "The Walking Dead" as your guests… the cast of the most successful cable drama of all time. You get good guests, your show is doing well, you have the respect and support of your colleagues and fans… your joke was sorta funny, we suppose, but was it really worth saying? You know what they say about what you should do when you don't have anything nice to say? You should come sit next to us. No, wait, we mean, you shouldn't say anything at all. No one's suggesting you should have expressed sentiments that weren't heartfelt about Leno, but did you need to make his sign-off night (OK, OK, his second sign-off night, admittedly) all about you?
4. Carol Burnett busted out her trademark Tarzan yell for Leno… did we know they were pals?
Burnett was another celeb who'd made several guest appearances on Leno's "Tonight Show"… in fact, she sat down with Jay seven times (Thursday's finale marked her eighth appearance on his show), while she made just three appearances as a guest on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show."
One of Burnett's most memorable recent public appearances was on Leno's show on April 23, 2013, in which she shared emotional memories about the man who helped her launch her showbiz career and about her talented daughter Carrie, who fought a long battle with drug addiction and became an actress herself before succumbing to lung cancer at age 38.