Dave Berg fudges the record on Leno.

Dave Berg, former producer for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, tries to up Jay Leno’s legacy by insisting…

He brought in the politicians.

Our grand experiment began with Jimmy Carter, whose candor was a change from Hollywood guests who were often little more than self-promoters. Carter didn’t hesitate to admit to Leno he almost lost his presidential bid in 1976 after telling Playboy that he, a strong Christian, had “lust” in his heart. Carter turned out to be a big draw, so we forged ahead.

This is curious.  Jimmy Carter, I see, was on Jay Leno in February of 1993.  This is, indeed, before Al Gore made his appearance on David Letterman — on CBS later that autumn.  But it is hard to see this “forging ahead” at “full speed ahead”.

By 2000, the major presidential candidates in the primary and general elections were making regular stops on Leno and, to a lesser extent, Letterman, who had followed our lead. “The Daily Show,” picking up steam with new host Jon Stewart, was on the same path. Politicians saw late-night as an opportunity to come across as a regular guy in a way news shows did not afford them.

Interesting.  Bob Dole announced his presidential bid on Letterman in 1995.  Basically.  He would do so officially a little later.  It was noted through the magazine news-weeklies (either Time or Newsweek) as a harbinger of the zeitgeist of politicians making their way into pop culture venues.  By the time we get into the 2000s there’s two good reasons for politicians to gravitate toward Leno: ratings winner, and he’s safer.  (Leno was never going to get into a feud with Sarah Palin).    But by this point, everyone’s on everyone, and, sorry Dave Berg.

I tend to think Letterman revitalized his show slightly for a while by bringing political figures for something a tad harder hitting than Leno (somehow sliding into having political opinions).  But this was brief.

… Then again, I don’t know that Ron Paul ever did Letterman, so maybe that counts for something.

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