Jay Leno on cancel culture: 'You either change with the times or you die'

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Jay Leno isn’t worried about cancel culture.

The 71-year-old former “Tonight Show” icon spoke up about the movement which has resulted in performers losing gigs, endorsement deals, and even fans for jokes that have been deemed too offensive by the public.

He suggested he doesn’t stress about the idea of getting canceled. Instead of cracking one-liners carelessly and seeing where laughs land, the star of the upcoming “You Bet Your Life” revival said he’s simply tweaked his approach.

“When I do a gig in Utah and they’ll go, ‘Look, we don’t want any drug jokes, we don’t want any sex jokes, I go, ‘OK, I’ll take those out’ and I do something else,” Leno said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times. 

Jay Leno made his Fox Nation debut on Wednesday in the highly-anticipated reboot of ‘You Bet Your Life.’
( Wendy Perl/NBCU Photo Bank)

“With the #MeToo movement, all of a sudden the sexist jokes everybody used to do, you can’t do anymore. So you either change with the times or you die. You adapt to the circumstances,” he added.

Although Leno isn’t scot-free in terms of upsetting some with his comedy chops. Earlier this year, the late-night veteran issued an apology for anti-Asian jokes. At “America’s Got Talent” in 2020, Gabrielle Union also reportedly took issue with a racially insensitive joke by the comedian while he was a guest judge.

During the filming of an interstitial segment, Leno joked about a painting that featured Simon Cowell surrounded by dogs. Leno joked that the dogs looked like something one could find “on the menu at a Korean restaurant” — much to the chagrin of “the very few Asian staffers” on the show. The comment was later edited out of the episode.

Leno admits he hasn’t always been right. “If I see somebody who’s really hurt by something I did, that’s not my job,” he said. “The idea is to get them to laugh.”

Leno had an impressive run at “The Tonight Show,” where he was host for 22 years. Now, he’s starring in Fox First Run‘s highly-anticipated reboot of “You Bet Your Life.

Jay Leno explained why he’s not afraid of getting canceled.

Guy Aoki, founding member of the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition, allegedly threatened Leno’s new run, however. The LA Times reports that Aoki planned to launch a boycott against the new show if Leno didn’t issue an apology to Asian Americans.

Leno apologized and took it one step further by giving Aoki a personal call.

“After the Zoom meeting, Jay called me back and said, ‘I want to do whatever I can to get back the respect you once had for me,’” Aoki said. “And that meant a lot to me. And then he ended up calling me back 20 times. We had a lot of time to talk about stuff.”

Leno spoke up about his new game show gig, noting that it will not be heavy in political jokes.

 “We’ll pair a rapper from Chicago with an Ohio farmer lady, and they work as a team and it’s quite funny to watch,” Leno said. “There’s no politics, there’s no Trump jokes, there’s no Biden jokes. There are jokes about Congress in that generic sort of ‘they’re idiots’ type of thing.”

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