COMMENTARY | Jay Leno hosted his last episode of “The Tonight Show” with the expected accolades and tears. Despite the fact that he was king of late night among every demographic, he was given the royal order of the boot by NBC because of ageism.
The network wanted a younger, hipper host for its flagship late night show. Hence Leno, a white haired man in his 60s, is out.
One other possible reason, as Big Hollywood suggests, is that Leno, likely not a righty himself, was willing to mock everyone in his monologue, including President Obama. The rest of late night, including Leno’s replacement, Jimmy Fallon and, of course, Jon Stewart are reliably liberal in their approach to humor. In other words NBC has fired the one late night comedian whom adults in flyover country can appreciate.
Fortunately, according to Forbes, Leno can have any job he wants. Those include another late night show on a rival network such as Fox, a prime time show (my preference there would be for him to replace Piers Morgan on CNN), or a series of specials. Leno, for now, seems ill-disposed to jump back into the late night TV world right away, preferring to do a series of live, stand-up comedy shows.
Of course no one knows what the future will bring. Fallon, like Conan O’Brien before him, could stumble and see a ratings crash. His previous show was popular enough, though the adults who liked Leno may or may not tune in on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” out of anger at the way Leno was treated.
Under that circumstance, it is conceivable that Leno might be enticed to return to late night, knowing that his presence is not going to make a difference one way or another for the fortunes of Fallon, whom he seems to genuinely like. This is a development to be hoped for. Leno’s departure leaves a dearth of humor that people other than lefties on the coasts can appreciate.