Feature

Leno vs. Obama: Who was funnier?

Some critics are panning the "Tonight Show" host's routine at the White House Correspondents dinner — and giving Obama's speech the nod  

Jay Leno was given the honor of roasting the President at D.C.'s annual White House Correspondents dinner this weekend. But many observers are saying Leno's routine was too routine, especially compared to Obama's own speech, a daringly witty effort reportedly penned in part by writers of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (watch both speeches here). Even Leno seemed to realize he was flailing, telling the crowd it was a "tough room." Are critics being too hard on him?

No, Leno was utterly predictable: Admittedly, Obama's "artful skewering" of the attendees left Leno at a disadvantage, says Walter Shapiro at Politics Daily, but let's be frank: Leno's set was a "comic disaster." Mother-in-law jokes? Lawyer one-liners? Leno's "time tested ability to be famously inoffensive" no doubt earned him the gig, but he misjudged the occasion's blandness demand, delivering a speech "about as edgy as a Bob Hope USO routine."
"Jay Leno bombs at the White House Dinner"

"Tonight Show" fans would have loved it: I think Leno's taking some "unfair criticism" over this, says Joe Gandelman at the Moderate Voice. Though his set was "good, solid, standard monologue material" which would have satisfied any fan of the "Tonight Show," he was facing a traditionally tough, "even thankless" audience.
"Obama sizzles and Leno fizzles at White House Correspondents Dinner" 

It was the wrong comedy for the time: It was strange to see a "workaholic comedy pro" like Leno bested by a "stand-up neophyte" like Obama, says Richard Zoglin at Time. But Leno's "worthy" brand of "mainstream, offend-no-one political humor" is not exactly in vogue. In the current "toxic and dysfunctional political climate," audiences prefer incisive, satirical takes like Jon Stewart's.
"Leno at the White House Correspondent's dinner: He's no Obama"

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