Jay Leno: Bill Clinton era was ‘golden age of comedy’

For Jay Leno, nothing tops “men behaving badly” jokes. Or 4,000 of them.

Leno made more than 4,600 jokes about former President Clinton — more than any other public figure — during his tenure as host of the “The Tonight Show,” according to a study conducted earlier this year.


“That was the golden age of comedy,” Leno told ITK on Sunday, as he was honored in Washington with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

“Men behaving badly is the best, because nobody’s dying. It’s not a 9/11,” Leno told us when we asked about Clinton, who became the topic du jour in 1998, when news broke of his sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky. “There’s nothing funnier than that. Plus, all the hypocrisy that goes with that.”

“I think every comedian will probably tell you they did more jokes about that than almost any subject, because it was perfect,” Leno said. The 64-year-old comic, who stepped down from his 22-year late-night gig in February, explained, “Drunken pilot not on the plane: hilarious. Drunken pilot on the plane: not really funny at all. … And it’s the same thing with this. Nobody died. Nobody was injured. So it’s good fodder.”

Leno told nearly 1,000 more jokes about Clinton than he did about former President George W. Bush, who came in second on a list of his top political joke targets compiled by the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University. Former Vice President Gore, President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary and Chelsea Clinton to host series based on their book 'Gutsy Women' Democrats see spike in turnout among Asian American, Pacific Islander voters Biden officially announces ex-Obama official Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE rounded out the top five.

Leno says he’s met Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonJimmy and Rosalynn Carter encourage people to take COVID-19 vaccine Harris taps women of color for key senior staff positions Obama, Bush and Clinton say they'll get vaccine publicly to prove safety MORE “many times,” and the ex-commander in chief never expressed any displeasure about being a favorite punch line. “He’s got a pretty thick skin,” Leno says, although, “I’m sure he didn’t appreciate all of them.”

The veteran comic says two potential 2016 contenders could give comedy a boost in the coming years. “It’s got to be fun getting that Bush/Clinton back together again,” Leno told us, apparently referring to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Hillary Clinton.

“That’ll be fantastic,” he grinned.