Comedy legend and former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno lamented the direction that late night comedy has gone, during an interview with NBC’s Al Roker.
“It’s been five years since you left the “Today” show, and you see the place we are right now in this country. Do you miss being on the show, or is it such a different time that it would be hard to do?” “Today” host Roker asked Leno.
“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 replied.
“I kind of used Johnny’s model. People couldn’t figure out. ‘Well, you and your Republican friends’ or ‘Well, Mr. Leno, you and your Democratic buddies.’ And I would get hate mail from both sides equally, and well that’s fabulous” Leno said, referring to his predecessor at “The Tonight Show,” Johnny Carson.
Leno left “The Tonight Show” in 2009 only to return the next after the show had trouble with host Conan O’Brien at the helm. He made a second stab at retirement from the show in February 2014 at which time his show was leading the competition.
The network replaced Leno with former “Saturday Night Live” cast member
The comedy icon went on to explain why things were easier when he was in the business: “But when people see you as one-sided, it just makes it tough,” Leno, 68, continued.
“And plus, I did it when, you know, Clinton was horny and [George W.] Bush was dumb, and it was just a little easier.” “Now it’s all very serious,” he said. “I’d just like to see a bit of civility come back to it, you know?
“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?”
When asked if he thinks the “pendulum will swing back the other direction,” Leno said, “of course I think it will swing back the other way.”
“The theory when we did the show was; you just watched the news we’ll make fun of the news and get your mind off the news,” Leno explained.
“Well, now people just want to be on the news all the time, you just have one subject that’s the same topic every night, which makes it very hard.
“All the comics, Jimmy and Colbert and everybody else, it’s tough when that’s the only topic out there.”