We might all remember a time, not too long ago, when a particularly noteworthy Tonight Show warfare saw Jay Leno reigning strong as the network pet and ratings superpower, over cult favorite underdog and headlines hero Conan O’Brien. But tides have surely changed, as Leno now finds himself the target of NBC’s heated scorn, thanks to his own loyalty to the craft of satire: Leno’s continued jokes about his station’s lackluster ratings have brought the peacock to a rumored Tonight Show retooling — talks have centered on Late Night host Jimmy Fallon as a plausible replacement for Leno in the 11:35 slot.
On Thursday night, Leno maintained his allegiance to the art of comedy… at least with one fleeting opening gag. Leno started the show with a crack about his own murky future at NBC: “Are you all into March Madness?” Leno began. “People are talking about who’s in, who’s out, who’s gonna be eliminated. And that’s just here at NBC.” Following an excited response from the crowd, Leno capped off his joke with a tongue-in-cheek remark: “I’ve never been in the paper this much. It’s fantastic.”
While Leno might not exactly be the posterboy for “sticking it to the man,” often opting instead for the inoffensive, white bread approach to humor, it’s hard not to feel comforted by his adherence to this kind of material. Even if it’s costing him the favor of his employers, so it seems, Leno isn’t going to pass up on the joke everybody expects him to make.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
[Photo Credit: NBC]