No late night comic has been tougher on President Barack Obama than Jay Leno. It’s not even a close call.
Don’t bet on it.
Leno’s Obama jokes represent the host simply doing his job, mocking the powerful as the headlines demand. It’s a side effect from the Age of Obama that Leno’s competitors have mostly given up the practice of poking fun at the president. In our media saturated age, political jokes matter, and today’s liberal comics don’t want to be responsible for damaging the Obama brand.
No matter what one might think of Leno, the veteran host is not a bully. He’ll treat Obama as a guest in his “house,” maybe rib him a little on a few issues but otherwise make him feel comfortable. That’s his job, and to do much more would be unnecessary.
Reporters are supposed to make the president squirm, not late night hosts.
Not every late night show replicates Leno’s welcoming demeanor. Consider how Rep. Michele Bachmann was treated when she went on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon two years ago, or consider David Letterman’s sharp tone whenever Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly pays a visit to The Late Show.
Leno is better than that, one of many reasons why many will be sad to see him leave The Tonight Show next year.