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Former late-night icon Jay Leno says today’s crop of late-night television personalities have turned the formerly escapist form of entertainment into a constant, “depressing” drumbeat of criticism against President Donald Trump.
The 67-year-old Leno — who fronted NBC’s Tonight Show for 17 years before stepping down in 2009 — praised current late-night hosts Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah, and Samantha Bee, but added that their shows deal nearly exclusively in “depressing Trump stuff.”
“The trouble is that there’s such negativity now. When I did the show, Bush was dumb and Clinton was horny and it was human problems,” Leno told the Hollywood Reporter in an interview. “Now it’s all anti-women, anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican, anti-Salvadoran; it’s such a negative thing. God bless all the late-night hosts, they make it funny, but ultimately, it’s depressing. You don’t really watch late-night TV to get away from reality anymore; now it’s more in your face.”
Leno added that his wife was depressed after Trump’s victory, but that he predicts the president will be “the greatest thing that ever happens to the women’s movement.”
“Because even men who are apathetic are going, ‘Whoa, wait a minute.’ Harvey Weinstein was a catalyst, but Trump really started [the groundswell],” he said.
Leno — who currently hosts car show Jay Leno’s Garage on CNBC — said he does not regret leaving late-night TV and is content to “say thank you and step back.”
He also wished his former rival and fellow late-night icon David Letterman luck on his upcoming Netflix show, a monthly series called My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, that will see Letterman conducting in-depth interviews with celebrity guests.
Letterman’s first guest for the show launching January 12 is former President Barack Obama.
“I’m sure Dave will be excellent, he always does a good show,” Leno told THR. “He’s such a quirky guy, I’m sure it will be terrific. But it’s too close to what I used to do. And lightning doesn’t usually strike twice. For some people it can; Dave is talented and I’m sure it’ll do fine.”
See Leno’s full interview with THR here.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum