Comic: Leno's “Tonight Show” Rise Mirrors Nixon's Political Rise

By the time you read this, the ink may already be dry on a $30 million to $40 million settlement that would allow Conan O'Brien to leave NBC so Jay Leno can reclaim The Tonight Show.


Listen to the full interview on Comedy Death-Ray Radio. In a nutshell, Oswalt says he and two comedian friends had just talked for three hours about the Leno-O'Brien controversy, and that Leno reminded him of the Nixon depicted in Rick Perlstein's book Nixonland.

Noting there are several comedians who do like Leno and that he's one of them, Oswalt questions why the late-night host even wants to host the show. David Letterman spent years studying Johnny Carson and hosting his 12:30 p.m. NBC show in preparation of taking the mantle from Carson and making the show better, argues Oswalt, while O'Brien did the same with Letterman.

Leno, by contrast, just wanted The Tonight Show for the sake of doing The Tonight Show, failing to come up with fresh ideas or improve the late-night form, according to Oswalt. What infuriates him and other comedians most, Oswalt added, was that Leno was “the best comedian of his generation,” and then he just “shut it off” to take over Tonight.

“It's like a guy winning who doesn't know why he wants to win it,” Oswalt says of Leno. “. . . It's almost like you want to take him aside and say, 'Why do you want this so badly?' Because he doesn't do anything with it.”

Comedy Central star Michael Ian Black has been much more succinct in his criticism of Leno, sending out a tweet
that stated, “One bright spot on this terrible day is seeing everybody come
together and agreeing that Leno sucks.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *