Jay Leno is getting a second Tonight Show farewell this evening, but this one means far more to the late night landscape.
Leno first left the show in 2009 after NBC botched a plan to keep rising star Conan O’Brien in the family by giving him the gig. We all know what happened next. Leno’s 10 p.m. program flopped, and the O’Brien-led Tonight Show couldn’t match the ratings Leno pulled in.
Those late night maneuvers came early during President Barack Obama’s first time, a time when comedians were unsure about mocking the country’s first black president. Plus, any new president typically begins with some goodwill from voters and comics alike.
Now, Leno is leaving the late night arena with huge ratings and the reputation of being the only host to treat President Obama like … the President of the United States.
Recently, a few fellow comics have hit the president over the disastrous ObamaCare rollout. More often than not, Leno’s peers prefer to poke fun at a Republican, any Republican, rather than the most powerful person in the world.
So who is replacing Leno on NBC’s iconic talk show? Jimmy Fallon, the Saturday Night Live grad who once let Obama “slow jam” the news with his talking points during an election cycle and sat by while his band leader called Rep. Michele Bachmann a “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” via song.
Another SNL alum, Seth Meyers, is taking over the Late Night franchise from Fallon. Both comics served under Lorne Michaels, the SNL producer who recently admitted his show hits Republicans harder than Democrats.
We’ve certainly witnessed SNL go soft on Obama over the past five-plus years, be it via its sketches or the Weekend Update desk Meyers manned.
The irony is that Leno likely isn’t a conservative. He’s never admitted to being right of center, and during interviews with Republican guests he often sounds more like Jon Stewart than Ben Shapiro.
Jerry Seinfeld recently mocked diversity quotas in comedy, arguing, “funny is funny.” Leno worked under a similar mindset. He told jokes about current events, goofy headlines, and whatever president happened to be sitting in the Oval Office at the moment. That’s the late night comic job description, and he fulfilled it with grace and uniformity.
He will be missed.