Is Obama Team Leno?

by BILLY GRAY · January 22, 2010

Barack Obama And Jay LenoThe White House Correspondents' Association gave Jay Leno another undeserved career boost and named him this year's dinner roast host. By snubbing Conan O'Brien, has the White House (or at least the journos who follow it) come out on the wrong side of a Boston rivalry twice in one week?

You may recall the LA Times' analysis of the Leno-O'Brien late night brawl as a product of their divergent Beantown backgrounds--powder blue collar Jay and pampered Harvard priss Conan. Jay really is the eternal underdog, isn't he?

So why the O'Brien slight? There could be a very practical explanation: O'Brien's golden parachute includes the stipulation that he will not appear on TV for seven months (though I suspect Leno will keep his ginger spirit alive with a torrent of stale monologue jokes) and the dinner takes place on May 1.

It's also possible that Leno was chosen because he's an equal opportunity, bipartisan offender, having previously lampooned the Dubya, Clinton and Reagan administrations during the dinner. The political parties that laugh (at each other) together, vote together, right?

Assuming it hasn't dissipated by May, the controversy surrounding Leno could also deflect barbs away from Obama, allowing the President and his minions to breathe a sigh of relief as Leno's most biting humor comes at his own (or his rivals') expense.

Maybe Obama just wants to prevent any charges of elitism by avoiding a nauseating stream of inside jokes from a fellow Harvard alumnus.

Regardless, the decision is worrisome. The White House has already been hobbled this week after dismissing for too long a young-ish upstart with Boston ties and a groundswell of support.

And although Scott Brown's working class affectations might resemble Leno's, his rabid populist fanbase (minus its questionable politics) is totally Team Coco (and not as in Coakley).

Oh well, the political establishment's tone-deafness to the masses might come in handy if Leno's shtick falls on an auditorium's worth of similarly deaf ears.