Jay Leno: Not a Republican

Nikki Finke has a long interview with Jay Leno in LA Weekly entitled “Does Mr. Middle-of-the-Road Lean Left?” It dispells the notion held by some that Leno is a conservative. The piece gives insights into the Tonight Show host’s keen judgment and awareness of what his role is.

A couple of amusing and/or insightful excerpts:

You went totally hog-wild with the French jokes.

Well, there̢۪s nothing funnier to me than the French. The French Resistance is probably the biggest mythical joke that ever existed. There were four guys in the French Resistance. They couldn̢۪t hand over the Jewish people fast enough. Oh, please, don̢۪t tell me about the French. The French have all sorts of secret deals with Saddam and everybody else for two cents a liter. It̢۪s an easy target.


The ratings are laughs . . . if it got a big laugh. I always say comics make the mistake that they start off as comedians, then they become humorists, then they become satirists, then they become commentators, then they̢۪re out of show business. That̢۪s sort of the way it goes. I don̢۪t want to be preached to as a member of the audience. I like to hear a joke. And if I̢۪ve learned something after I̢۪ve laughed, well, that̢۪s pretty good. And if I̢۪ve learned something before I̢۪ve laughed, I don̢۪t enjoy it as much.


I suspect that Letterman is more anti-Bush than you.

Does he show his dislike maybe a little more than I do? Probably. But to me, Dave is a TV broadcaster. I am a comedian. It̢۪s just different. My job is to get laughs. For what I̢۪m doing, sometimes sarcasm and irony do not work as well as a joke. But I don̢۪t think our politics are probably much different. I̢۪m also at a disadvantage. Because you know you can never ask Dave to answer any of these questions.

And Dan Rather could learn a thing or two from him, too:

My first instinct is always to understand. If people say something about me, I go, “Okay, why do they say it?†When you’re in this business, if something goes wrong, it’s always your fault. It’s always my fault because my name is on the show.

The piece gives a pretty clear picture of why the guy is so well liked and has been so successful in a brutally competitive industry for so long.

Warning: Unconstrained by the FCC, Leno uses some colorful language a couple of times.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    From reading the interview, I suspect Nikki took away from it the conclusion she wanted, reading more into some of Jay’s answers than may necessarily have been there.

    Another case, though mild, of Dan Rather Syndrome?