The Washington Post

22 years of jokes from the Tonight Show’s Jay Leno

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jay Leno
After two decades on “The Tonight Show” (we’ll ignore those awkward missing months in 2009-2010), Jay Leno offers up his last laugh tonight. Over the years, he’s directed a slew of jokes at D.C.’s top politicians, often with similar themes (Clinton’s a sex addict! Bush is dumb! Hillary’s a nag!). With help from Robert Lichter, director of George Mason’s Center for Media and Public Affairs and author of the upcoming book “Politics Is a Joke: How TV Comedians are Remaking Political Life,” we take a look at cultural punch lines from the past 22 years.

1992  “[George H.W.] Bush is accused of manufacturing the crisis with Iraq. If this is true, it’s the first manufacturing job he’s brought to America in years.”

1993  “I think [Ross Perot] has lost some clout after the NAFTA debate. You know, they made him sit at the little card table.”

1994  “Today Newt Gingrich attacked Santa Claus as just another liberal with a giveaway program.”

1995  “Feuding O.J. Simpson attorneys F. Lee Bailey and Robert Shapiro finally buried the hatchet. In fact, they buried it right next to the knife.”

1996 “When Russian President Boris Yeltsin disappears from sight, people assume he’s on his deathbed. When our president disappears from sight, we assume he’s in someone else’s bed.”

1997 “President [Bill] Clinton has a new program to teach sexual abstinence to young people. Well, those who cannot do, teach.”

1998  “Monica Lewinsky has given her dress to Ken Starr because she claims it contains DNA evidence of a sexual encounter with President Clinton. In fact, I believe this is the very first time Ken Starr has ever gotten a dress off a woman.”

1999  “In her Senate campaign, Hillary may drop the ‘Clinton’ and run under her maiden name, ‘Vader.’ ”

2000 “You know the difference between Dick Cheney and Bill Clinton? Cheney grabs his own chest.”

2001  “Today, President [George W.] Bush ordered an investigation into whether it is appropriate to have civilians with no experience running a Navy sub. Hey, how about an investigation into whether it’s appropriate to have a civilian with no experience running a country.”

2002  “Saddam Hussein turned in his big report on weapons. It’s 12,000 pages long. … That shows you how clever that Saddam Hussein character is. By the time Bush finishes reading this thing, he’ll be out of office.”

2003  “The producers of ‘Joe Millionaire’ say the show’s message is that you don’t need $50 million to be happy. That’s right — all you need is 20 beautiful women who think you have $50 million.”

2004  “A woman was caught trying to pass a counterfeit $200 bill that had a picture of George Bush on it. Turns out there’s also a John Kerry bill. Pretty realistic. He’s on both sides.”

2005  “Historians this week named Warren G. Harding the dumbest president of all time. I understand President Bush is demanding a recount.”

2006  “Last weekend you could have seen Pakistan’s President [Pervez] Musharraf on ‘Meet the Press,’ Senator Joe Biden on ‘Face the Nation’ and Congressman Mark Foley [of the page scandal] on “Dateline: To Catch a Predator.”

2007  “[Mitt] Romney criticized [Rudy] Giuliani so much, [Giuliani] made him an honorary ex-wife.”

2008  “Everyone is so concerned now where all of the candidates are born. [John] McCain was born on a military base in Panama. Hillary was born outside Chicago, and if you believe the media, Barack Obama was born in a manger.”

2009 “Former President George W. Bush said he was proud that when he was in office he didn’t sell his soul, which is true. He rented it to Dick Cheney, who then sublet it to Halliburton, but it’s totally different.’’

2010  “It’s freezing all across the United States. In fact, in D.C., the weather is so bad, they actually hired convicted criminals to shovel snow at the U.S. Capitol. Isn’t that amazing? It’s nice to see members of Congress doing something useful for a change.’’

2011  “President Obama’s approval ratings are so low now, Kenyans are accusing him of being born in the United States.”

2012 “Mitt Romney is so rich, he taught his dog to roll over … an IRA.”

2013  “The pope is resigning. I just hope it’s not steroids.”

2014  “They say the threat of terrorism at the Sochi Winter Games is very high right now and it’s pretty scary. In fact, it’s so dangerous over there right now that today NBC asked me to go as a correspondent.”

Jay Leno, By the Numbers

The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University cataloged nearly 44,000 jokes Jay Leno made about political figures and celebrities at “The Tonight Show” from 1992 through Jan. 24. 

Top Political Joke Targets

1. Bill Clinton 4,607
2. George W. Bush 3,239
3. Al Gore 1,026
4. Barack Obama 1,011
5. Hillary Clinton 939

Top Celebrity Joke Targets

1. O.J. Simpson 795
2. Michael Jackson 505
3. Martha Stewart 208
4. Paris Hilton 153
5. Lindsay Lohan 153



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