WASHINGTON – Comedian Jay Leno, former host of the Tonight Show on NBC, said he has to be “careful” as a comic because “everybody is very political correct” today.
“You’ve got to be so careful when you do this for a living. Everybody is very politically correct. You do a Trump joke, the Trump people get mad. You do a Hillary joke, the Hillary people get mad. College kids, oh my God, so politically correct,” Leno said during a performance at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington on Friday.
Leno told a story about a former Tonight Show intern who asked him if he wanted Mexican food for lunch one day.
“I said, ‘Eh, I don’t really like Mexican.’ And this kid goes, ‘Woah, that’s kind of racist.’ I said, ‘being anti-guacamole is not racist,’” Leno said to laughter from the crowd. “There’s a difference between racism and politically incorrect.”
As an example, Leno described his grandfather as “political incorrect – born in Italy, spoke Italian and ate Italian food.”
“Whenever you would take him out to dinner he always had to point this out because it always amazed him to see people eating out of their ethnic group,” Leno said, before doing an impression of his grandfather. “‘Look at that, a Chinese guy with a hot dog, you see that? A black guy with a bagel. A Korean man with a pizza, look at that.’ ‘Stop it, you’re going to get us killed, Grandpa. Stop doing that.’”
Leno said there aren’t many “macho guys” in movies anymore and that the original Shaft as well as its theme song would not be acceptable today.
“You can’t have that Shaft anymore,” Leno said, referring to Richard Roundtree who played John Shaft. He recited some of the lyrics: “Who’s the black private dick; That’s a sex machine to all the chicks (Shaft).”
“Those words now make people uncomfortable,” Leno said to laughter. “Now you have to say, ‘who’s the African American investigator, who enjoys having safe, consensual sex, with strong independent women that work for equal pay (Shaft).’”
In December, NPR conducted a poll on political correctness, which found that “fifty-two percent of Americans, including a majority of independents, said they are against the country becoming more politically correct and are upset that there are too many things people can’t say anymore.”
Following the performance, Leno was asked if he thinks the country has become too politically correct.
“No, it’s fine,” Leno said with a smile.