It's not quite a late-night feud on the level of Leno/Letterman/Conan, but "The Tonight Show" vs. "The Late Show" is happening right now in real-time, and Jay Leno thinks Jimmy Fallon will win by sticking to the laughs.
Leno opened up on The Hollywood Reporter's "Awards Chatter" podcast, discussing his controversial reign on "The Tonight Show," and the new political era of late night, when most hosts spend the night skewering President Donald Trump.
Here's part of THR's report:
Leno insists that he doesn't miss hosting The Tonight Show or the drama that came with doing so. "I was lucky," he says. "I did it at a time when Bush was dumb and Clinton was horny." Now, he says, things have gotten much darker. "I don't like Trump, I can't stand the guy, I don't like him personally. But the constant negative Trump stuff on a nightly basis? I think it has a debilitating effect on people. People are just, 'Oh, gosh, I don't wanna watch TV anymore. This is just the same thing every night.'"
Huffington Post listened to the podcast and reported this quote from Leno, referencing the tight race now between Fallon's "Tonight Show" and "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert":
"I miss the silly factor. I think the reason Fallon is number one ― and I think he's number one again, its been close this year, it's back and forth ― is because, at some point, you want to use TV as an escape. Look, I just want to have a few laughs before I go to bed, that's all."
Variety just reported yesterday that, for the first time since Trump's inauguration, "The Tonight Show" edged out The Late Show" in total viewership ratings. Fallon has steadily retained a lead in the advertiser-loving 18-49 demo.
Colbert's numbered surged after Trump's election, with the late night host using his political comedy to an advantage. And on a night like tonight -- after Trump's comments about the "Morning Joe" hosts -- more viewers may flock to "The Late Show" for Colbert's reaction. But there are times when Leno is probably correct, and people want a break from the constant political talk -- which they already get all day on the news -- and just want to have some fun with silly games, songs, and celebrity jokes. That kind of innocent puppy dog fun is Fallon's strength.
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