Jay Leno Says a former member’s reaction to him Tonight Show Staff at a joke he made about transgender people led to him an apology and a promise to never make transgender people the target of his jokes again.
The former TV host and comedian shared the story while appearing as a guest on the last episode of random club With Bill Maher. The two were discussing his turbulent history of getting in and out of late-night hosting gigs—including controversies involving David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and Conan O’Brien—when Maher began telling Leno that he’s the “victim of the last horrible applicable prejudice in America: aging.”
“You have an idea in your head that you should go out into the pasture,” At present Affiliate host. “As I speak to you now, you are exactly the same person who was there at the time, so I don’t think your mind has dulled.”
Leno responded by saying that the way he saw himself and framed a rollercoaster late at night was because he was “a big believer in low self-esteem”.
“I think it’s the key to success because when you don’t think you’re the smartest person in the room, you shut up and listen,” he said.
That, he explains, helped keep him in check while hosting the show for more than two decades, with the former host turning to his squad to help ensure they stay humble.
“When I got Tonight ShowI hired the best producer I could, the best director, I thought they were the best writers. I gave them contracts on an annual basis, not 13 weeks. I said, “Do the best you can.” We’ve had the same crew for 22 years. When they tell me the show is bad, I’d go, “Why bad?” And they’ll tell me why it got worse.”
When Maher steps in to ask Leno if he’s referring to letting someone on his team like the worker “tell that to you”, Leno asserts that he’s heard the ideas of more than just the higher-ranking creative team members on the show.
“My theory is that anyone can pull the rope and stop the train,” he says. “I remember once we had a guy downstairs that I didn’t know. I had made a transgender joke at the time, and I heard that guy was really hurt about it. So I went down to see him and explain the situation.”
Leno says he listened to that employee and said “I apologise” after hearing how painful it was. Then he made a promise about moving forward with his jokes, stating, “Here’s the thing: You’re only as good as your last joke.”
“You said you’d never hear another transgender joke again,” Leno recalls. “He was very touched by the fact that he could blatantly discontinue this show due to his only complaint. [He] Turns out he’s the greatest light man or voice man, whatever he did, we had.”
He ended, “For me,” “It worked for me.”
lino I apologize in advance for the racist jokes Targeting the Asian community throughout his career, including during guest rule american talents Comments that have been heavily criticized by the Asian community for years.
In a 2021 conversation with MANAA leader Jay Aoki, Leno addressed the perpetuation of stereotypes about North Korea and Koreans, rejecting that this was “another example of abolition of culture” and instead was a “legitimate mistake that was done on my part” .
“At the time, there was a situation that some groups were always complaining about something, so don’t worry about it,” the comedian said. “Whenever we receive a complaint, there will be two sides to the discussion: either ‘we need to deal with this’ or ‘screw it’ if they can’t take a joke.” Often times I sided with the latter even when I knew in my heart it was a mistake.”
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