All the late-night TV hosts tell jokes skewering prominent liberals and conservatives, but a new analysis of after-hours quips reveals that NBC stablemates Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon aim more barbs at liberals and democrats than do CBS’ David Letterman and Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart.
The study – conducted by the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University – also concluded that all four funnymen typically target democrats and liberals more than republicans and conservatives, mainly because we now have a democrat in the Oval Office and no POTUS is exempt from late-night heckling.
The study took careful count of all the jokes told by the four late-night hosts in their monologues and opening segments, from last Jan. 1 through Labor Day. The researchers found a total of 1,625 jokes made about public figures known for being political partisans – from President Obama and veep Joe Biden to opinion-makers in the media such as Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow.
Breaking the material down according to targets, they found that the most joked-about of all the public figures, not surprisingly, was President Obama. Letterman lobbed 92 jokes at the president; Stewart, 72; Leno, 68; and Fallon, 77.
While it’s true that Stewart and Letterman told more Obama jokes combined that Leno and Fallon, the picture shifts when the study tallies jokes told about everyone else. For example, Leno and Fallon each told 27 jokes about Biden, while Letterman and Stewart told none. In addition, Jon Stewart told 44 jokes about Glenn Beck, while Leno and Fallon told none (and neither did Letterman).
Conservative Sarah Palin was a target of all four comics, but much more so from Letterman and Stewart, who told 58 and 35 jokes about the former Alaska governor, respectively, versus Leno’ 24 and Fallon’s 19. Of course, Letterman had a famous feud with Palin, so you can’t blame him for making hay of that golden comedy opportunity.
The Center concluded in a press release that “Stewart and Letterman aimed three out of four partisan jokes at rRepublicans and conservatives, while Leno and Fallon aimed at least two out of three jokes at Democrats and liberals.”
“Just as conservatives get their political news from Fox and liberals from MSNBC, conservatives are getting their political humor from NBC and liberals from Comedy Central,” CMPA President Dr. Robert Lichter said in a statement. He also came to a thought-provoking conclusion based on Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” rally held in Washington over the weekend: “Jon Stewart’s approach to Glenn Beck is to beat him and then join him.”
What do you think of this meticulous dissection of late-night political humor? Should we take serious a study that purports to reveal political biases among a group of late-night funnymen? Or are these middle-of-the-night jokesters just kidding around?