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Jay Leno laments the ‘negativity’ of late-night TV

Comedian Jay Leno
Comedian Jay Leno AFP/Getty Images

David Letterman is coming back to television — the former “Late Show” host’s new Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman” premieres Friday — but don’t look for Jay Leno to return any time soon.

Leno, who departed “The Tonight Show” in 2014, laments the state of late-night in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. The Andover native says he admires a lot of the current hosts, specifically mentioning Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Samantha Bee but not Conan O’Brien. (You’ll recall that O’Brien succeeded Leno as host of “The Tonight Show” in June 2009, but was pushed out less than a year later when Leno returned.) But Leno tells THR he finds the preponderance of political humor these days to be “depressing.”


“Late-night has always been pretty topical. The only trouble is now everyone has the same topic. It’s all depressing Trump stuff,” Leno says. “The trouble is that there’s such negativity now. When I did the show, [George W.] Bush was dumb and [Bill] 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. God bless all the late-night hosts, they make it funny, but ultimately, it’s depressing.”

Even if he did want to get back in the late-night game, Leno thinks his time has passed.

“I had my platform and I enjoyed it for 22 years. But at some point, it turned into a young person’s game. At my age, I can’t pretend to know all of Jay-Z’s music. When you’re 40, you talk to the 26-year-old supermodels and it’s sexy; when you’re 67, you’re the creepy old guy,” he says. “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.


These days, Leno is hosting the CNBC docuseries “Jay Leno’s Garage” and perhaps planning for retirement. He and wife, Mavis, recently paid $13.5 million for a spectacular ocean front mansion in Newport, R.I.

Asked about Letterman’s six-episode Netflix series — Dave’s first guest will be former President Barack Obama — Leno said he wouldn’t be interested in hosting a similar, celebrity-driven interview show.

“I like what I’m doing,” he says. “To me, I like talking to regular people and seeing what I can draw out of them. I’m sure Dave will be excellent, he always does a good show. 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.”