Hot on the heels of reports that NBC wants to replace Tonight Show host Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon comes a New York Times story about NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt being offended by some of Leno’s monologue jokes about the network. Late Shift author Bill Carter, who wrote the Times piece, reports that three executives say Greenblatt was so offended by Leno’s jokes about NBC falling to fifth place that he emailed the Tonight Show host to complain. Leno and Greenblatt exchanged emails debating the issue, with Leno standing by his zingers and arguing that making fun of one’s network is a late night tradition. Here are some of the offending monologue jokes from The Tonight Show on February 28th:
For the first time in history, NBC is going to finish fifth in the ratings period. We are behind the Spanish-language network Univision — or as we call it here in Los Angeles: Cinco de Ratings.It’s so bad, The Biggest Loser isn’t just a TV show anymore; it’s our new motto.It’s so bad, NBC called Manti Te’o and asked him to bring in some imaginary viewers.
These jokes all seem pretty tame, and like Leno argued to his boss, a lot of late night hosts have been goofing on their networks for years without it ever being an issue. Still, this is not great timing for Leno to be upsetting his bosses, what with all this Fallon succession gossip going on. This report from the Times is the first documented instance of someone being offended by a Jay Leno joke for a reason besides its quality.