Former late-night funnyman Jay Leno thinks Stephen Colbert will be “really good” when he takes over hosting duties from David Letterman on CBS’ Late Show this fall – but he’d still like to see more diversity across the late-night TV landscape.
Leno appeared onstage at the Television Critics Association press tour on Thursday to promote his new CNBC show Jay Leno’s Garage when he offered his opinion on the late-night domain he commanded for decades.
“A white guy on late night, this is revolutionary!” Leno said when asked about Colbert, according to the Wrap.
“I would like to see a bit more diversity in late night,” he added. “We’re certainly ready for a female host, another African-American host. Arsenio [Hall] was terrific… Comedy is really funny when it’s stranger in a strange land, when you bring in different perspectives.”
Still, Leno said Colbert is more than qualified to take over Letterman’s chair, and even said that the hardline conservative alter-ago character he played for years on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report isn’t that far off from the comedian’s true persona.
“Colbert will do really well,” Leno said. “People think he’s this raging liberal. He teaches Sunday school. I think he’s a pretty conservative guy.”
“I think he’s really funny and I think he’s talented, I just think he has a bit of a mean streak,” said Leno. “The best thing you can have in this job is kindness. That’s the one thing you have to keep because this job makes you arrogant, it makes you think you’re superior. Consequently, there’s a tendency to nail the little guy. When I watch his thing where he takes the candy away from the kids at Halloween and they cry, I don’t get that. That seems mean to me. I guess it’s funny on some level. But on another level, it doesn’t come from the heart. It comes from somewhere else. And I think that’s maybe why he hasn’t achieved the success he’d like to because I think he’s just got a bit of a mean streak.”
Even though his new show will be strictly about car collections (he reportedly owns more than 100 cars himself), Leno couldn’t resist getting one more shot in at the expense of Republican presidential candidates.
“I guess Jeb Bush and Trump are the frontrunners right now. It’s kinda like a race between the tortoise and the bad hare,” he quipped.
Jay Leno’s Garage premieres October 7 on CNBC.