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Jay Leno Is Cool with Diversity, But Wouldn't Want to 'Hit People Over the Head' with It

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | October 6, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | October 6, 2015 |

David Letterman retired back in May, and you know how many public appearances he’s made since then?


He briefly re-emerged in June to join Steve Martin and Martin Short in making fun of Donald Trump. That’s not to say that Dave has gone into hiding. He will go to India in 2016 along with several others to film a docu-series on climate change for National Geographic. He’s also going to host a fundraiser (along with Al Franken) for U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s bid for New York Senate.

Dave’s keeping it low profile.

Leno, on the other hand, showed up on The Tonight Show last night to take over monologue duties for Jimmy Fallon.

I don’t know if Leno’s people or Fallon’s people wrote those jokes, but when Leno delivers them, they always sound like “Leno” jokes.

In another interview, Leno also reiterated his point that Jimmy Kimmel has a “mean streak,” which is why he’s in third place in late night, echoing comments he made a month ago, adding that Kimmel went after him because of Howard Stern.

“It’s funny, I always thought Jimmy Kimmel was the (late night) guy that I was going to be close to,” Leno told The News. “We have similar blue-collar, Italian roots — but he chose to go after me so he could get into the whole Howard Stern camp and never really understood what it was all about.”

(Note: Kimmel didn’t go after Leno until Leno took back his job from Conan, which Kimmel thought was a dick move).

The reason Leno is out and about is because Leno is ramping up publicity for his new show on CNBC about cars. He’s doing a lot of press, and I don’t want to make a big deal out of this tone deaf quote, but I read this line from his interview in AdWeek this morning, and I did a triple take.

Asked about diversity in late-night now, he offered this:

Whenever we do a show, I always try to have good diversity—not hit people over the head with it.

Jay Leno! He’s all about diversity to a degree, but he would never rub it in your face! I bet he’s cool with gay guys, too, as long as they don’t “flame it up” around him.

I wonder if there’s a “hit them over the head” scale? Is it, like, if you are 20 percent diverse, it’s OK, but if you go over 35 percent diverse, Leno puts on the brakes, “Woah! Woah! Can we replace the black guy and one of those ladies with white guys? We don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea and think that we have an agenda.”

I mean, Leno wouldn’t want anyone to think he’s running a hip-hop outfit, right?

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.