"The Tonight Show" host Jay Leno sat down for a "Press Pass" interview with David Gregory this past Sunday to talk politics and comedy, working with George W. Bush vs. Al Gore and how his comedy differs from that of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
According to Leno, Republicans and Democrats differ when it comes to how they approach comedy on his show. He found that President George W. Bush had less reservations about appearing in a comedy sketch mocking his intelligence, whereas preparation for another bit with Al Gore involved bringing in "focus groups and media people" on his behalf.
"You know, Democrats and Republicans are interesting because Republicans really laugh at themselves more," Leno said.
He also criticized Democrat John Kerry for "pushing it a little too hard" when he rode a motorcycle onto the "Tonight Show" set with a beer in an attempt to appear more like a "regular guy." In contrast, he later lauded Mitt Romney for appearing on his show after he had mocked him for weeks. Leno explained how he takes a tip from the mafia (where "you don't go after the wives or the children") when lampooning the candidates. If he doesn't attack them personally, the relationship remains cordial.
When it comes to making fun of Barack Obama, Leno, who mocked the President more than any other late night host in 2011, didn't have much to say. When Gregory asked if he was an easy President to make fun of, Leno simply said that the Bill Clinton and George Bush years were the "the golden age of comedy."
Leno also briefly explained how and why he goes after a wider audience than "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report." While he thinks there's "nobody funnier than Colbert and Jon Stewart," he feels his humor is more accessible to more people. He admits that politics has "got it all" when it comes to fodder for comedy, but his willingness to appeal to a broader audience relies on him not just making fun of politicians.
Watch the full interview above.