The good ol’ days of late-night hosts like Johnny Carson putting laughs above politics have long sailed past our culture into oblivion, leaving us with a lineup of partisan hacks who mistake progressive talking points for a witty joke.
The last of these former late-night hosts, Jay Leno, senses an imbalance in the comedy Force. Speaking with , Leno declared that late-night comedy has devolved into a “depressing” anti-Trump bashfest that deadens the intellect and leaves our escapist passions wanting.
“Late-night has always been pretty topical,” Leno said. “The only trouble is now everyone has the same topic. It’s all depressing Trump stuff.”
Leno lays none of this at the feet of the talent and credits all the late-night hosts for having a unique voice in their own right. He just feels the topics have become too ideologically focused, which breeds negativity. While Leno certainly never shied away from political topics, he always brought a level of humanity to it that lifted people above the grime.
“The trouble is that there’s such negativity now,” says Leno. “When I did the show, Bush was dumb and Clinton was horny and it was human problems. Now it’s all anti-women, anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican, anti-Salvadoran; it’s such a negative thing.”
“Ultimately, it’s depressing,” he continued. “You don’t really watch late-night TV to get away from reality anymore; now it’s more in your face. You laugh but then you go to bed going, ‘Oh man, the world is really pretty rough.’ And it’s not, it’s one man that causes all these problems!”
In no way does this make Leno a Trump supporter. In the same interview, he voices support for the anti-Trump women’s march and feels that his presence has emboldened women to become feminists; all leftist talking points. While Leno has always had his own political opinions, he had enough professionalism and appreciation for average Americans to set-aside his politics to just tell jokes. The same could be said for Jerry Seinfeld. Both were comedians first and activists second. Now, it’s either the other way around or the two have become interlinked into an unsettling hybrid.
When asked if he wishes he still had a platform to take his own shots at President Trump, Leno again showed that comedy, professionalism and gratitude matter more than political activism.
“I had my platform and I enjoyed it for 22 years,” he said. “But at some point, it turned into a young person’s game. At some point, you need to step back and say, ‘I did it.’ I was lucky enough to live in a time when we did very well and the show was No. 1 and then say thank you and step back.”
Leno now hosts the CNBC docuseries “Jay Leno’s Garage,” which explores his avid passion for cars.