“The Tonight Show” took a largely serious turn when Barack Obama stopped by Tuesday, though Jay Leno did get the president to admit he’d banned his kids from watching the Kardashians without having seen their reality shows.
“I’m probably a little biased against reality TV, partly because there’s this program on C-SPAN called Congress,” Obama explained. "I have not seen the [Kardashian] show. Do you recommend it?"
The president referenced reality TV again in downplaying the threat posed by his 2012 GOP rivals.
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When Leno asked whether he’d been watching the GOP debates, Obama said was “going to wait until everybody is voted off the island.”
“Once they narrow it down to one or two I’ll start paying attention,” he added after the applause line.
A clip NBC released hours before its late-night broadcast also showed Obama’s lighter side when talking about Halloween at the White House.
Obama said that Michelle Obama had taken to handing out fruits and raisins to trick-or-treaters.
“And I said, ‘the White House is gonna get egged if this keeps up,’” Obama said. “You need to throw some candy at them, couple of Reese's Pieces or something.”
The lighter moments followed two segments devoted to economic challenges Obama has faced as president and tough national security decisions like the ones that took out Osama bin Laden and American born-terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki.
Asked his reaction to Moamar Khaddafy’s death, Obama said the Libyan dictator had terrorized his country for 40 years, “had supported terrorism and had ample opportunity” to give up power and turn toward democracy.
“And obviously, you never like to see anybody come to the kind of end that he did,” Obama said. “But I think it obviously sends a strong message around the world to dictators that people long to be free and they need to respect the human rights and aspirations of people.”
Obama flashed his sense of humor when Leno brought up how many in the GOP had opposed his decision to pull all U.S. troops from Iraq by the holidays.
“It's shocking that they opposed something I proposed,” Obama deadpanned.
But he said to cheers that he thought, “the vast majority of the American people think it’s time to bring this war to a close.”
Leno said he didn’t like Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call to make Obama a one-term president.
Obama replied that, "the things that folks across the country are most fed up with, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, independent, is putting party ahead of country or putting the next election ahead of the next generation.”
Obama had come to friendly territory. Before he emerged onstage, Leno warmed up the crowd with a monologue heavy on jabs at Republicans, as well as an obligatory shot at the Peacock network.
“The president is raising money for a huge disaster relief project – it’s called NBC,” he joked.
The late-night host noted Khaddafy had spent little on health care and education for his country, “so I guess he was a Republican.”
The last time Obama did Leno he drew heat for invoking the Special Olympics while making fun of his own poor bowling skills.
This time there appeared to be no gaffes – but he may get an angry call from Kris Jenner in the morning.