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Hey, what does Emmy have against that nice guy Jay Leno?

July 21, 2008 | 10:23 am

Good thing that Jay Leno has a sense of humor. While the "Tonight Show" host may be the king of the late-night ratings, when it comes to the Emmy Awards he is more like Rodney Dangerfield — he gets no respect. Since taking over the franchise in 1992, Leno's version of the talk-show staple has won the Emmy for best variety comedy or music series once — way back in 1995. The last of its nine nominations in that category came in 2003.


Just why is that? The middle-of-the-road-approach to humor that Jay Leno takes probably isn't cool enough for Emmy voters who prefer the edgier chicanery of David Letterman (his "Late Show" won five Emmys in a row beginning in 1998) and more recently Jon Stewart (his version of "The Daily Show" has won the last five races).

Leno has lost the individual performance category twice — in 1998 to Billy Crystal for hosting the Academy Awards and in 2005 to Hugh Jackman for hosting the Tony Awards. Letterman was also in that 1998 race. He has lost the hosting Emmy three more times — 2001, 2006 and 2007 — but returns as a nominee this year.

Letterman won four consecutive Emmys as part of the writing team on "Late Night" beginning in 1984 and has been a perennial writing nominee for "Late Show," including this year. Leno, who has never been nominated for writing, will have to be content with contending this year for outstanding special class — short-format nonfiction program for "Jay Leno's Garage." His competition for this Emmy Award for Web programming? Try "Deadliest Catch: The Real Dutch" and "Great Moments from the Campaign Trail."

That's a great category for "Tonight Show" talent, by the way. Way back in the 1960s and 1970s, Leno's predecessor, Johnny Carson, grew weary of his show losing the award for best variety show over and over to "The Andy Williams Show" and "The Carol Burnett Show," so he placed "The Tonight Show" in the special class category and won! When he left the airwaves in 1992, his "Tonight Show" won best variety series but otherwise it had a tragic, tarnished history with TV's Golden Girl.