LOS ANGELES – In a neat bit of promotion, Jay Leno's last guest on the "Tonight" show will be the man who's taking over for him — Conan O'Brien.
James Taylor will perform on Leno's May 29 finale, the late-night host told a teleconference Thursday. And surprises are in store, he said.
"I have something really unusual and different planned, something really out of left field that we're going to end on. It's something really personal," Leno said, and has to do with the show and its staff.
"I think it will make people smile," he added.
Taylor was a sentimental choice: Leno said that when he left his native Boston for his comedy career, the pop star's music was playing on the radio.
Leno joked that his last show will look back at his 17 years on "Tonight" because that's "easier than writing new stuff."
O'Brien, who turned NBC's "Late Night" over to Jimmy Fallon in March, becomes "Tonight" host on June 1. Next fall, Leno will begin a daily 10 p.m. EDT show on NBC.
The big names making the cut for Leno's final week of "Tonight" include Mel Gibson, Prince and Billy Crystal — who was Leno's first guest when he took the show over from Johnny Carson in 1992.
The handover to O'Brien represents a peaceful transition of power, unlike when Leno and David Letterman jockeyed to succeed Carson. Leno lauded O'Brien as a friend and a host who "always has material," which Leno called the key to success.
He lamented the scarcity of TV comedy.
"When I was a kid, God, there was comedy all over TV and it was fun to watch," he said, including Carol Burnett's variety show and sitcoms.
His said his prime-time show, which is still being developed, will offer viewers an alternative to the many crime dramas airing. NBC's research shows people want more laughs and, as importantly, advertisers are on board, he said.
Known as a workaholic, Leno said he never considered taking a post-"Tonight" break.
"I'm half-Scottish and we die in the mine. We like to work," he said, noting he doesn't go on vacations and, except for two sick days last month, has never missed a "Tonight" taping.