Friday, May 29, 2009

Farewell To Jay Leno, The Last Nonpartisan Comic

The entertainment industry tends to lurch to the political left and comedians, in particular, tend toward the countercultural. In the tamer times of Bob Hope and Johnny Carson, they could take good-natured jabs at politicians of all stripes. No group of citizens creates more buffoonery than elected officials. Heck, even the unelected bureaucrats tend toward the doltish. Since we live in a civilized country that does not allow for tar-and-feathering, ridiculing these buffoons is the best weapon the public has. Good comedy does that for us.

Even in the early years of Saturday Night Live, that incredibly talented group of comic legends took shots at all people with power. There were no sacred cows. I would suspect that the "Not Ready For Primetime Players" leaned to the Left in their politics, but they did not let that limit their satirical targets. They were funny without being vicious.

Today, SNL is incapable of doing satire against the political left. That would be disloyalty. Tina Fey takes great pride in the fact that many Americans believe her over-the-top portrayal of Sarah Palin is the REAL Palin. Dopey Leftists quote Fey's SNL performances as the actual words of Governor Palin. And, then, there is Jon Stewart. He will occasionally satirize a leftwing figure, but the balance sheet is not even close. Of course, the most irritating thing is that he tries to pass as a news commentator who happens to use comedy; at least, that is, until he says something foolish and then he is just a comic. Of course, much like Obama and his teleprompter, Stewart had to shut down "The Daily Show" during the writer's strike because he cannot achieve moderately funny without a team of writers.

That brings us to Jay Leno. I used to watch Leno a lot, but my eyes are usually too heavy by that time these days. Sometimes I do catch pieces of his monologues later. Leno has that touch that the funny men of yore possessed. He (and, yes, since I took a swipe at Stewart, I know he also has writers) sees rich targets in all areas of public life. No one is off limits. Leno was tough on Dubya, but he is also tough on Barack Obama, which is rare in the comedy world. Some have suggested that Obama is so cool, so intelligent, and so "messiah-like" that they cannot come up with anything amusing about him. They should call Jay Leno and "The Tonight Show" gang. They approach comedy with humor as the goal rather than setting a partisan objective and using wit as a way to ridicule their target. The Jon Stewarts, Steven Colberts, Jeannine Garofalos and Tina Feys of the world have more in common with Saul Alinsky than with George Carlin.

So, thanks for the memories, Jay Leno. You have written another successful chapter into the rich history of NBC's "The Tonight Show." Ok, Conan, let's see what you have.

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