Bill Clinton No. 1 target of Leno jokes, study finds

The comedian hosts his last show Thursday

FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, file photo, former President Bill Clinton speaks at a CGI Clinton Global Initiative Latin America event at the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro. During Jay Leno’s two-decade tenure as NBC’s “Tonight” show host, the comic has cracked a total of 4,607 jokes at the expense of President Clinton. The Washington-based Center for Media and Public Affairs counted and catalogued nearly 44,000 jokes Leno made about politics and public affairs during his time at “Tonight,” which ends Thursday. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)

With the possible exception of Conan O'Brien, it's safe to assume no one is happier about Jay Leno's retirement than Bill Clinton.

The former two-term president was Leno's favorite joke target in his two-plus decades as host of the "Tonight Show," according to a study conducted by George Mason University's Center for Media and Public Affairs.

Of 43,892 monologue jokes about public figures and public affairs tracked by the study, Clinton was the target of 4,607 — about one out of every 10, dating back to 1992.

Clinton, who endured endless jibes as the Monica Lewinsky scandal played out, was far more popular among Leno's joke writers than their second most-popular target: President George W. Bush, subject of 3,239 jokes. The third-most targeted figure during Leno's tenure was Al Gore (1,026). President Barack Obama, the focus of 1,011 jokes, came in fourth.

Leno will host his last show Thursday.

Democrats were the target of 10,885 Leno's jokes, or 15 percent more than the 9,465 jokes directed at Republicans. But, the study notes, this reflects not partisan joke writing, but that Democrats occupied the White House for 13 of Leno's 22 years as "Tonight Show" host.

O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson were the only celebrities to rival Leno's political targets. O.J. was tops among celebrities, with 795 jokes aimed at the former football star-turned-inmate; Jackson, at 505, was a distant second.

Top 40 "Tonight Show With Jay Leno" joke targets since 1992

1. Bill Clinton (4,607)
2. George W. Bush (3,239)
3. Al Gore (1,026)
4. Barack Obama (1,011)
5. Hillary Clinton (939)
6. O.J. Simpson (795)
7. Dick Cheney (673)
8. Michael Jackson (505)
9. Monica Lewinsky (454)
10. Bob Dole (452)
11. John McCain (426)
12. Mitt Romney (361)
13. John Kerry (357)
14. George H.W. Bush (343)
15. Newt Gingrich (328)
16. Sarah Palin (300)
17. Ross Perot (288)
18. Arnold Schwarzenegger (288)
19. Joe Biden (274)
20. Dan Quayle (260)
21. John Edwards (229)
22. Osama bin Laden (216)
23. Martha Stewart (208)
24. Paris Hilton (153)
25. Lindsay Lohan (153)
26. Robert Blake (121)
27. Anna Nicole Smith (55)
28. Roger Clemens (50)
29. Tonya Harding (49)
29. Alex Rodriguez (49)
31. Heidi Fleiss (48)
31. Charlie Sheen (48)
33. Lance Armstrong (47)
33. Michael Vick (47)
35. Madonna (46)
36. Justin Bieber (44)
37. Brittney Spears (42)
38. Kobe Bryant (38)
38. Chris Brown (38)
40. Kim Kardashian (37)

SOURCE: The Center for Media and Public Affairs