During an appearance on NBC’s “Today” on Tuesday, former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno says that he doesn’t miss his late-night hosting gig because now “everyone has to know your politics.” Leno suggested that current hosts have failed to learn what he learned from his Johnny Carson – not to let yourself appear to be “one-sided.”
NBC’s hosts began by saying “So it’s been five years since you left ‘The Tonight 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?”
“No, it’s different — I don’t miss it,” said Leno. “You know, everything now is if people don’t like your politics — everyone has to know your politics.”
“I kind of used Johnny [Carson]’s model,” Leno said. “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.'”
The hosts reacted enthusiastically to Leno’s response.
“But when people see you as one-sided, it just makes it tough,” Leno said. “And plus, I did it when, you know, Clinton was horny and Bush was dumb, and it was just a little easier,” he added.
“You know, now it’s all very serious, everything so, so na— 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,’” he continued. “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?! Exactly.”
Hosts asked Leno if he thinks the pendulum will swing back the other way. He responded: “Of course, I think it will swing back the other way.”