Everyone Hates Jay Leno? Kimmel Mocks With Scathing Impersonation

As we pointed out yesterday, Jay Leno would like you to know that this is not his fault. But judging by the reactions of his fellow comedians, there is no love lost between Leno and his late-night peers. Given the histories between Leno, David Letterman and of course, Conan O’Brien, it makes sense that there would be some tension in the evening monologues. But when innocent bystander Jimmy Kimmel gets in the act, and goes out of his way to crap on Leno? It might signal that, in fact, Leno doesn’t really have many pals in Hollywood.

The fraternity of comedians is a pretty tight lot. Many of the most successful stand-ups (and late night hosts) know one another from their earliest days of coming up, poor, hungry and sleeping on each others couches in hopes of one day hitting it big. The comedian’s code seems to include a pledge never to call out another performer for not being funny (though stealing material is the worst of all crimes.) No, comedians typically look out for each other, in large part because no one else does.

So this makes recent reactions to reports of Leno’s going back to the 11:30 time slot even more curiouser. Judging by comments by nearly everyone in the biz (not named Jerry Seinfeld) the comedy world is on Team Conan, or more to the point, can’t believe that Leno can’t see the red light that’s on, telling him that his time is up.

The latest is Jimmy Kimmel, who’s comedy attack on Leno last night got personal — with prosthetic jaw, grey wig and Leno-esque lisp. Over the line? Judge for yourself after watching the following video of his intro last night:

David Letterman’s Preemptive Strike: Dave’s NBC Attacks Air First On YouTube

David Letterman didn’t hold back, again, in bashing NBC and its late night woes on his Late Show tonight.

But in a move that combined new media savvy, playful ribbing and the acknowledgment many viewers would be tuning into the potential impending seminal late night moment when Conan O’Brien post-letter Tonight Show airs, CBS released all portions of Letterman’s NBC jabs early on YouTube.

CBS gave some strong descriptions to the videos as well (all below). They ranged from “Dave comments on the crazy world of NBC late-night television” to “Dave analyzes the latest developments in the NBC late-night debacle.” Debacle, crazy world – is there any doubt Letterman is not the only one at the Tiffany network thoroughly enjoying the train wreck happening at the Peacock network?

Here are a few notable quotes, but really, just watch all the videos (more than 14 minutes!):

• Letterman on NBC execs: “If they didn’t know what they were doing they wouldn’t be there” (laughter, applause from audience).

• Letterman on Leno’s 10pm show: “Now the affiliates that carry teh NBC shows, they say ‘We’re out of here, we’re going to Telemundo, leave us alone we’re out of here. Put a camera on teh birdhouse we can do much better.’”

• “This whole mistake over there at NBC has cost them hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of million of dollars. Now the last thing they want to do, they just want Conan to quit and go away and do a show in his basement.”

• “According to the New York Times, al-Qaeda is claiming responsibility for the wreckage at NBC.”

And so on. Enjoy!

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David Letterman’s Amanda Simpson Transgender Joke Sparks Outrage

After his jokes about the Palin women spawned a movement to get him fired, you’d think David Letterman would have developed a teensy bit of sensitivity about sex and gender issues. Apparently not. A bit from his Tuesday night show, in which a stagehand flees the set in horrified disgust at transgender Obama appointee Amanda Simpson, has Human Rights Campaign calling Dave out and calling for an apology.

Here’s the clip:

The clip is offensive on a number of levels, not the least of which is that, as HRC’s letter states, “the punch line in your skit has been used as a defense in nearly every hate crime perpetrated against transgender people that has come to trial.”

The Advocate notes a defense of Letterman:

Some argue his skit was actually making fun of the narrow-minded, stereotypical response to learning a friend or colleague is trans.

Maybe so, but in a world where transphobia is still much more acceptable than other forms of discrimination (try Googling “Mann Coulter”), where gags about guys being “duped” by “trannies” are still a comedy staple, you’d really have to hang a lantern on that kind of satire.

The Letterman bit is part of a larger problem, though, one that is neatly symbolized by the fact that my computer’s spellcheck function doesn’t recognize the word “transgender.” It’s a complicated issue. Transpeople are routinely thrown under the bus when it comes to legislation, having to fight extra-hard to be included with the LGB part of LGBT.

Last year, I wrote a story that detailed some of those efforts. The stories of the people I met are compelling, and underscore the importance of calling out this kind of ignorance. Transpanic very often leads to violence, and jokes like these contribute to that.

Most critics of Letterman’s joke also miss the next layer of subtext, the implication that Amanda Simpson is promiscuous. Surely, such a joke would have raised eyebrows had it been directed at some other female public servant, like Sarah Palin, for instance.