The government shutdown is obviously a ripe target for comedians, but who knew that Jay Leno would use the opportunity to make a bunch of jokes that were both unfunny and imbued with right-wing populism? (The former was perhaps predictable.) The gist of his monologues this week was essentially as follows: both parties are to blame for the shutdown, Washington is a horrible swamp, politicians are terrible, and oh, by the way, the government doesn't do anything anyway, and thus this whole shtudown thing is not so bad.
Here he was on setting forth his populist, even-handed credentials: "Both sides are blaming each other. Republicans are pointing their fingers at Democrats. Democrats are pointing their fingers at Republicans. And Americans are pointing their middle finger at both of them." [0:40]
Some anti-government rhetoric: "How many of you are worried about the government shutdown? How many of you are worried about it starting back up?" [0:42]
Debt paranoia: "We do have a lot of non-essential employees. Like the Treasury Secretary. Why is he there? We don't have any money in the treasury." [1:21]
A bizarre joke about Obama and Tele-e-Prompters: "You can see the effects [of the shutdown]. President Obama is down to one Teleprompter." [1:50]
And more anti-government sentiment: "Thirty-three percent of the government is doing nothing. Which isn't bad because before the shutdown 80 percent was doing nothing." [0:40]
Leno has thus further cemented the conventional wisdom that he is the least daring comedian working. After he leaves "The Tonight Show" next year, perhaps he can get a Dennis Miller–like gig on Fox News, at least before NBC changes its mind, fires Jimmy Fallon, and hires him back.