Jay Leno Talks The Evolution Of Comedy And More

April 19, 2019 - 2:18 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Former "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno spent years proving that he could find humor in almost any situation.

Often regarded as one of the best comedians of his generation, Leno found humor in almost anything during his tenure on the late-night show and even on his CNBC show, “Jay Leno’s Garage.”

Leno will soon take his humor to the stage once again when he headlines the final installment in the fifth season of the New Jersey Speaker Series, presented by Fairleigh Dickenson University, on April 25.

Before that though, he got the chance to speak with WCBS 880’s Steve Scott, who serves as the moderator for the Speaker Series, about the evolution of comedy over the years, the current political climate and much more.

“I think anyone can be funny, except maybe the Germans,” Leno joked. “I think anyone could be, I mean everybody's funny in some way.”

He says some people are funny in their inability to be purposefully funny while others are simply quick-witted. But, he says the best comedy, to him, is when people are able to tell the funniest part of a story in the least amount of time.

Though, comedy has changed a lot over the years, and especially on late-night talk shows, comedy has seemed to become more divisive and many note that comedians, such as John Oliver and Stephen Colbert rely heavily on political jokes for their shows.

“When you do late-night shows, a late-night show – at least when we did it – was sort of like a newspaper, the front page is the big story of the day and then you tend to go through the different sections,” Leno explains. “It’s a different time now. Now, we live in an era where if people don’t like your politics, they don’t like your movie, they don’t like your song.”

Additionally, he notes that over the years, comedy has tended to become more controversial and many comedians have begun to rely on “shock value” – which he notes that he always tried to clean up while he was hosting “The Tonight Show.”

“I come from the era when you sort of tried to make everybody laugh,” he says. “What happens now is people go where the audience is.”

Listen to the full interview with Jay Leno above and don’t forget to check out the 2019-2020 New Jersey Speakers series, which gets underway on Oct. 10 with former Secretary of State John Kerry and wraps up on April 30, 2020 with “Seinfeld” actor Jason Alexander.

The series is sold by subscription. For more information visit www.NJSpeakers.org or by calling 888-MY-NJPAC or 888-656-5722.