Legendary late-night TV host Jay Leno said the current crop of late-night shows are drowning in politics.
Leno hosted NBC’s “The Tonight Show” for more than 17 years, succeeding Johnny Carson. On Tuesday, he joined NBC’s Al Roker on “Today” for an interview.
“Do you miss being on the show, or is it such a different time that it would be hard to do?” Roker asked.
“No, it’s different. I don’t miss it. You know, everything now is, if people don’t like your politics, they — everyone has to know your politics,” Leno said.
“I kind of used Johnny’s model,” he said referring to Carson, whom CNN once referred to as an “equal opportunity needler.”
“People couldn’t figure out. ‘Well, you and your Republican friends,’ or ‘Well, Mr. Leno, you and your Democratic buddies,'” Leno said. “And I would get hate mail from both sides equally.
“Well, that’s fabulous. That’s exactly what I want. But when people see you as one-sided, it just makes it tough.”
Leno said the tone of late-night shows has changed.
“Now it’s all very serious. I’d just like to see a bit of civility come back to it, you know?” he said.
“The theory when we did the show was you just watch the news, we’ll make fun of the news and get your mind off the news,” Leno said. “Now people just want to be on the news all the time, you just have one subject, it’s the same topic every night, which makes it very hard. All the comics — Jimmy (Kimmel), (Stephen) Colbert, everybody else — it’s tough when that’s the only topic out there.”
His comments drew a reaction from President Donald Trump.
“Actually, the one-sided hatred on these shows is incredible and for me, unwatchable,” Trump tweeted.
“Jay Leno points out that comedy (on the very boring late night shows) is totally one-sided. It’s tough when there’s only one topic.” @foxandfriends Actually, the one-sided hatred on these shows is incredible and for me, unwatchable. But remember, WE are number one – President!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2019
New York Daily News writer Rich Lowry bemoaned the loss of the Carson era in the time of Kimmel, the current host of NBC’s late-night show.
“From Carson to Kimmel is the story of the fracturing of a media environment that has made niche audiences the coin of the realm. Add on top of this an inflamed anti-Trump resistance cheered on by the elite media,” he wrote.
Leno said he hosted at a time when it was simple to skewer the president. “(Bill) Clinton was horny and (George W.) Bush was dumb, and it was just a little easier,” he said.
In the era of Trump, he said, reality has pushed aside comedy.
“People say, ‘Oh, it must be easy to do jokes with Trump.’ No, it’s actually harder because the punch line of the joke used to be, ‘That’s like the president with a porn star.’ Well, now the president is with a porn star. Where do you go with that? How do you get more outrageous than that?”
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