I haven’t watched a ton of Leno in big gulps in the past, largely because I just don’t watch a ton of late night television period and because Leno’s broad-based humor has never been a big draw for me. But, as corny as Leno’s jokes can be, I don’t think I realized quite how much his show has been about picking on the little guy, and in most cases, the little guy is just your ordinary, average, everyday Joe. There’s an undercurrent to that that’s really disquieting and uncomfortable, and after watching a full week of Leno’s new show, it’s the overriding feeling I get from the series so far.There's substantial irony here. Leno is often marketed as the nice, relatable talk show host, but most of his bits (like "Jaywalking") are smug, self-satisfied, and mean. Letterman, on the other hand, has the reputation of being acerbic and sometimes nasty, but in his audience bits he always shows an unmistakable thrill from talking to average folks from Louisville or Grand Rapids or wherever.
Now, obviously, there are a lot of stupid people out there. I mock many of them on my blog, and sometimes I find the ignorance proudly displayed in this country to be depressing and frightening. But I do think there's a way to be a person, and I do believe that one should treat people (especially people who can't defend themselves, like Jaywalking victims) with some level of respect and dignity. I think that's why I've never much cared for Leno's particular brand of "comedy", which, to paraphrase Mencken, largely consists of rearranging prejudices and presenting them as jokes.