A number of comedians have spoken out against cancel culture in recent years, including Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Burr, David Spade, Kevin Hart, Michael Che, and Ricky Gervais. But there’s one comic who doesn’t think the trend of funnymen and women losing jobs for politically incorrect jokes is a problem — Jay Leno.
The former host of “The Tonight Show” told the Los Angeles Times that stand-up acts have always had to adapt to the new norms, saying, “You either change with the times, or you die.”
He argued that today is no different.
“When I do a gig in Utah and they’ll go, ‘Look, we don’t want any drug jokes, we don’t want any sex jokes,’ I go, ‘OK, I’ll take those out’ and I do something else,” he said, adding, “With the #MeToo movement, all of a sudden the sexist jokes everybody used to do, you can’t do anymore … You adapt to the circumstances.”
Leno did promise though that the non-partisan approach fans have come to expect from him will continue as he starts his new gig, hosting a revival of the game show, “You Bet Your Life.”
“We’ll pair a rapper from Chicago with an Ohio farmer lady, and they work as a team and it’s quite funny to watch,” the 71-year-old said. “There’s no politics, there’s no Trump jokes, there’s no Biden jokes. There are jokes about Congress in that generic sort of ‘they’re idiots’ type of thing.”
In the past, conservative fans have taken Leno’s tendency to avoid overtly political humor as evidence that he leans right.
As The Daily Wire reported, in 2019, he said he was glad he was no longer hosting a late-night show because “everything now is if people don’t like your politics — everyone has to know your politics.”
At that time, Leno said he always used the Johnny Carson model of neutrality, saying, “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.’”
But the comic legend has also made it clear that he’s not a Republican. A 2009 Atlantic story on Leno’s ideological worldview, for example, pointed out what happened when the stand-up read a report claiming he leans right:
LA Weekly writer Nikki Finke made the mistake of labeling Leno “The Right Comic” back in 2003, after he showed up at Republican Governor Schwarzenegger’s election victory party. An irate Leno responded to Finke’s two separate articles accusing him of having a conservative political bent, resulting in a candid interview in which Leno disputed her charge:
‘I’m not conservative. I’ve never voted that way in my life’…He believes ‘media is in the pocket of the government, and they don’t do their job’ so ‘you have people like Michael Moore who do it for them.’ He has on his joke-writing staff a number of former professional speechwriters for Democratic candidates. ‘No Republicans.’
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Author: Megan Basham