No Joke: Leno’s goodbye to the ‘Tonight Show’ may mean hello to politics

Some want late-night comedian to follow footsteps of other stars

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He notes that a former “American Idol” star has declared his intention to run for office, likely boasting a stage resume that is better than his political acumen.

“Does Clay Aiken really know the ins and outs of our Constitution? Does he understand the limited scope of his authority that the Constitution grants him? Does he understand how to counter executive action? What does he say about the NSA and the Fourth Amendment?” he asked.

“If history is any guide, we’ll continue to look to a person’s hairstyle, their smile, and their Hollywood performance to determine whether they are politically astute and true statesmen. This is the tragedy of America,” Mr. Krauser said.

Mr. Leno himself has vowed not to give up traditional stand-up comedy; he performed before a live audience more than 100 times in 2013. There have been calls from CNN and the History Channel for special broadcast projects. And because he’s already written a book and pens a column for Popular Mechanics, ongoing authorship would certainly be a possibility. The 63-year-old comic could always just relax and tend to his collection of 100 vintage automobiles.

But he also is very canny and understands the political persona at the highest level, having hosted one sitting president — President Obama — and three former presidents — George W. Bush, Mr. Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Those who pined to be president also showed up, including Sen. John McCain, Mr. Kerry and Mitt Romney.

Mr. Leno bore personal witness to an action hero who made the leap into politics.

Mr. Schwarzenegger entered the fray slowly, appointed to serve on a national fitness board in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, who referred to him as “Conan the Republican.” A decade later, the California Republican Party asked the actor to run for governor of the Golden State.

Naturally, he accepted the challenge during an appearance on Mr. Leno’s show.

“It’s the most difficult decision I’ve made in my entire life, except the one I made in 1978 when I decided to get a bikini wax,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said in the aftermath.

Mr. Grandy, who portrayed a cheerful purser aboard “The Love Boat” made a more immediate decision. When the popular ABC show left the air, Mr. Grandy left Hollywood and headed home to Iowa, intent on running for Congress.

He won, and stayed in office for eight years.

“As I look back on it, I probably didn’t know any better,” Mr. Grandy told the Sioux City Journal in a 2012 interview.

Jimmy Fallon, who takes over as host of the “Tonight” show Feb. 17, abandoned his sure-footed comic stance when he shared a moment on air with Mr. Leno on Tuesday night. The young replacement was visibly moved as he bade his personal farewell, and the pair shook hands.

His description of the outgoing star? “The nicest guy in the business,” Mr. Fallon told the appreciative audience.

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