Jay Leno, who became a late-night institution as the replacement for Johnny Carson on NBC’s “Tonight Show,” says the current crop of late-night hosts have failed to grasp an important lesson he picked up from Carson: Keep your politics out of it.
Leno was asked about late-night, and whether he misses it, during an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show. He said he doesn’t miss it, and a big reason is that these days, “Everyone has to know your politics.”
Leno added: “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 I went, ‘Well that’s fabulous! That’s exactly what I want.'”
He also suggested it’s not as easy to get political laughs in the current landscape. “I did it when, you know, Clinton was horny and Bush was dumb, and it was just a little easier,” he said.
He added: “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?!”
Here’s the clip — Leno’s comments on politics begin at about the 3:33 mark.