Ken Tucker
May 29, 2009 AT 07:19 PM EDT

Tonight is Jay Leno’s final night as host of The Tonight Show, so what better way to celebrate him than with a clip of him working at the top of his game: on Late Night With David Letterman

in the 1980s. Once upon a time, Leno and Letterman were pals, contemporaries who’d come up through the same L.A. comedy scene. The two enjoyed playing their roles: Letterman the upstart host, tweaking his network bosses; Leno the road-warrior comic, buffing his jokes like the wax sheen on one of his cars.

Note here how Leno gets a good laugh out of both Letterman and the audience by chiding Dave with the line, “I’m not one of your big-time comedy generals with a cushy desk job.” Oh, how the years changed things, eh?:

I love everything about this clip, including the punchlines about a Times Square that could still provoke laughs nationwide because it was famous as a grungy porn epicenter. As I said, how the years have changed things. And not necessarily for the better.

Happy last day, Jay; I’ll be watching as you, a Comedy General, pass the baton to Conan tonight.

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