[FOUNTAIN]Humor, politics and venom

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[FOUNTAIN]Humor, politics and venom

People jokingly said that Jay Leno, an American late-night talk show host and comedian, was the most frustrated man in the world when U.S. President Bill Clinton left office.

Jay Leno is the host of the "Tonight Show." He earned the enmity of some Koreans because of a joke about Kim Dong-sung, who was disqualified after finishing first in the men's 1,500 meter short track speed skating at the Winter Olympics. Mr. Leno ridiculed Mr. Kim, saying he was probably so angry after being disqualified that he went home, kicked his dog and ate it.

The reason Mr. Leno is said to have rued Mr. Clinton's departure was that he could not tell any more jokes about Clinton's love affairs, which he parlayed into a No. 1 rating for his show. Mr. Leno succeeded Johnny Carson as the host of the "Tonight Show" in 1992, and for the next decade, President Clinton was one of the most frequent victims of his sarcastic remarks.

Mr. Leno does a stand-up comedy routine at the opening of the show, and some of his wisecracks might give Aunt Millie the vapors. For example: "After five years of investigating and $30 million, Whitewater prosecutor Ken Starr has finally found the smoking gun, and apparently it's in Clinton's pants."

That is American late-night talk show style. They lampoon everything. Despite cynicism that may perplex some conservative Koreans, the "Tonight Show" is a reputable nighttime talk show that boasts 48 years of history while 30 competitors have come and gone.

Jay Leno was born in New York in 1950. He suffers from mild dyslexia, and did not do very well at school. But with his gift of gab, Mr. Leno started work as a stand-up comedian at night clubs in the 1970s.

In 1977, Mr. Leno appeared for the first time on the "Tonight Show" when Johnny Carson was the host. He was named to replace Mr. Carson in 1992.

Every weeknight at 11:30, 7 million Americans watch his show. He signed a third five-year-contract last year. Mr. Leno says ambition is more important than genius, and he is an example of success based on perseverance and hard work.

Some people criticize him for the venom in some of his jokes. But I fear that the letter sent to him by Kim Jong-pil's United Liberal Democrats to protest the joke about Kim Dong-sung may end up being included in another punch line chewed over by Mr. Leno's protruding jaw.

The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Oh Byung-sang

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