This article originally appeared in Forbes
Seth Shapiro, a governor for the Television Academy, describes two traditional late night philosophies: that of Johnny Carson and that of Jon Stewart. Carson stayed away from partisanship, leaving viewers guessing as to what side of the aisle he was on and making jabs that mirrored public opinion.
“Once Carson started joking about Watergate, Nixon was completely doomed because that deathblow came from the public, not from being partisan,” Shapiro says.
Fallon and Kimmel tend to stick with this school of late night, as is expected from their shows, which focus just as much on pop culture as politics. “It’s what The Tonight Showhas always been,” says Shapiro, adding that this goes back to the show’s decision to name Jay Leno host, rather than the more niche and partisan David Letterman. “If Trump succeeds as the populist president, NBC and ABC don’t want to be caught out.”
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