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Jay Leno’s 22-year tenure at the Tonight Show has been filled with thousands of political jokes and jabs at celebrities. Since he covered the entirety of former President Bill Clinton’s administration, it is no surprise that a study found that he was the comedian’s top political target. O.J. Simpson, who captured the nation’s attention with his white Bronco and trial, was the most-joked about celebrity.
George Mason University’s Center for Media and Public Affairs combed through 43,892 Leno jokes starting in 1992, when he took over the Tonight Show, through Jan. 24. In their study, the researchers found that Leno joked about Clinton a whopping 4,607 times, over 1,000 times more than President George W. Bush, who was the butt of only 3,239 jokes.
When it comes to celebrity targets, Simpson tops with 795 jokes about him. That left Michael Jackson in the dust, as he was only joked about 505 times. Martha Stewart (208) and Paris Hilton (153) were also popular topics for Leno.
“Leno’s monologues focused on power and scandal, and Bill Clinton was the top twofer,” CMPA Director/GMU Professor Dr. Robert Lichter said in a statement. Lichter is the co-author of the upcoming book Politics Is A Joke: How TV Comedians Are Remaking Political Life.
If anyone accuses Leno of being soft on Democrats, his fans can point to GMU’s study, which found that Democrats were joked about 10,885 times. That’s 15 percent more than Republicans who were joked about 9,465 times.
Leno is getting ready to hand over the Tonight Show to Jimmy Fallon this month. He recently said that he does not want to do another late night show, but is interested in having another TV gig.
Fallon starts his tenure on Feb. 17.