During a recent podcast appearance, comedian turned late-night host Jay Leno spoke about the evolving world of comedy. Many comedians have come under fire in recent years due to the cancel culture era we live in. But Leno thinks comedians need to adjust to the times, and update their material accordingly.
The former The Tonight Show host opened up about the topic while speaking to Janine Rubenstein on an episode of the PEOPLE Every Day podcast. As the pair talked about his lengthy career, Leno shared that he’s changed his act in recent years.
“I think it’s like any other thing, you either change, or die” Jay Leno said on the podcast.
As the conversation continued, Leno addressed criticism over past bits and insensitive jokes directed at those of Asian descent. In fact, earlier this year in March, he issued an apology to MANAA (Media Action Network for Asian Americans). While explaining his change of heart, Leno compared adjustments in comedy to an athlete dealing with rule changes.
“In football, you have certain rules,” Jay Leno said. “And when the rules change, if you don’t conform to them, you’re out of the game.”
In addition, he touched on sexist, racist, and homophobic jokes being commonplace in comedy for decades. However, Leno says that, “Now, everybody has a voice. You have to change the material to the times you live in.”
“My attitude is, ‘Look, these are the new rules,'” he continued. “You want to adapt. If you don’t, fine. Don’t get up and tell jokes then.”
Jay Leno Addresses Conan O’Brien’s TBS Show Ending, ‘Tonight Show’ Feud
Jay Leno faced backlash for certain jokes he told over the years as we mentioned. Yet he has also faced criticism because of the way he handled his longtime feud with Conan O’Brien. Earlier this month, he addressed the infamous late-night television battle over The Tonight Show.
In 2009, NBC asked Leno to step down from his The Tonight Show hosting gig, which he had since 1992. The network wanted to bring in a younger audience and decided to promote O’Brien. Things went accordingly for a while, but NBC abruptly pulled the plug on O’Brien as host and returned the gig to Leno.
In the meantime, O’Brien was left without a network and Leno went on to man the position for another five years. Eventually, O’Brien found a home at TBS, but after 11 seasons, the host recently brought Conan to an end. While speaking to Deadline earlier this month, Jay Leno was asked about Conan O’Brien.
“He’s very good. People get mad at me because somehow I …. It’s a network decision,” Leno said, placing blame on NBC for Conan’s firing.
He added that the network fired him too after The Tonight Show ratings decreased. Later, they requested that he return, and Leno says he simply went with the flow of things.
“They [NBC] take the show away, and then they go, ‘Will you come back?’ And you go, ‘Really? Is that what you want? Fine.’ I certainly hold no ill will. It’s a business,” he concluded.