Jay Leno, the two-time former host of The Tonight Show, insists he doesn’t miss the late-night TV game, even though he still watches all of the hosts occupying the space now in 2018.
Leno talked to The Hollywood Reporter this week to promote the new season of his CNBC series, Jay Leno’s Garage, which focuses on Leno’s longtime obsession with cars.
Here’s his take on late-night’s take on Trump:
Late-night has always been pretty topical. The only trouble is now everyone has the same topic. (Laughs.) It’s all depressing Trump stuff. And they all do a great job. Seth Meyers is a great writer; Jimmy Kimmel does a good job; Jimmy Fallon does a great job. I like Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah [on Comedy Central] and Samantha Bee [on TBS]. 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. 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. You laugh but then you go to bed going, “Oh man, the world is really pretty rough.” And it’s not, it’s one man that causes all these problems!
But then there’s an upside. My wife was so depressed when Trump was elected but I said, “This 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]. Seven hundred and fifty thousand women showed up for that march on three days’ notice. That was unprecedented.
I think it’s ultimately a good thing; sometimes you have to hit people in the head with a two-by-four to make them aware. Everyone is so wrapped up in their own problems right now — “I’m into guns” or “I’m into this” — that they don’t care about anybody else’s. But now, even the worst guys in the world, guys who cheated every day, are saying, “Whoa, this is bad!” Ultimately, something good will come out of it. I always used to meet young women who would say, “I’m not a feminist or anything but I want to get the same money as a guy.” I’d say, “What do you think it means to be a feminist?” Now they’re beginning to understand. I like to see a silver lining and I think that’s one of the good things that will happen. People are so incensed by Trump and what he does. But the country is actually OK — unemployment is down, people are working — so ultimately some good will come out of it.
Leno said he wouldn’t want to go back to celebrity interviews, and he certainly couldn’t handle living in a Netflix world where he couldn’t obsess over ratings and winning them.
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. That’s why I came back with something totally different [CNBC’s Jay Leno’s Garage] — it’s nothing like what I did. This is a hobby and it’s fun. It’s what I like to do.