Jay Leno Keeps Laughing at NBC

The Atlantic

Ah, another day brings another shot fired from The Tonight Show host Jay Leno at the network that feeds him. He's not letting this thing go away. 

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He fired off another joke at NBC's expense during Tuesday night's monologue. It's clear he's not letting this thing go away easily. "Did you hear about this? A 28-year-old woman from Serbia has a rare brain condition where she sees everything upside down," Leno told his crowd. "The good news? She's now been given a job at the White House as President Obama's economic adviser." That would bring for enough yucks, right? No, he continued: "Isn't that crazy? It's unbelievable. She sees everything upside down. In fact, she thinks NBC is at the top of the ratings."

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Boom shakalaka. Leno's in full on rebellion mode! Well, not really. This isn't half as bad as yesterday's volley, when he called NBC executives (particularly NBC entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt) "snakes in the boardroom." 

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It all goes back to a report from The New York Times' Bill Carter over the weekend about an "exchange of pointed emails" between Leno and Greenblatt. The executive took exception to jokes Leno made at the network's expense. NBC's ratings are in the tank, and Leno made light of Greenblatt's very serious situation. He is in charge of ratings, after all. On the February 28 edition of the Tonight Show, Leno joked that NBC was "Cinco de Ratings" because they're behind Univision, that The Biggest Loser is the channel's "new motto," and that NBC called Manti Te'o to help find new (invisible) viewers.

This all adds fuel to The Hollywood Reporter's report about NBC fast-tracking a Leno-to-Jimmy Fallon handoff starting in summer 2014, before Leno's contract is up at the end of that year. The reported network logic is they want a younger face to close a shortening 18-49 demographic viewers gap between Leno and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel, which is at least slightly ridiculous because Leno is still the top dog across the board (except when he takes the week off.) 

During his exchange with Greenblatt, Carter reports Leno defended himself because late night hosts as far back as Carson -- the gold standard if there ever was one -- poked fun at their network's performance, which seems to align with today's joke. This jab didn't pack as much punch as yesterday's right hook, if that makes any sense. We're intrigued for now, certainly, but what will really perk our interest is if Leno goes three nights in a row with the NBC jokes -- then he's in full-on Conan farewell tour NBC joke territory. 

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