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Jay Leno on Stephen Colbert: 'A white guy on late night? Revolutionary'

Jay Leno on Stephen Colbert: 'A white guy on late night? Revolutionary'
Jay Leno participates in the "Jay Leno's Garage" panel at the The NBCUniversal Summer TCA Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Thursday, Aug. 13, in Beverly Hills. (Richard Shotwell / Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Jay Leno isn't on late night TV anymore, but he still has plenty of opinions about after-hours programming.

The former host of NBC's "Tonight Show" couldn't resist taking a jab Thursday at Stephen Colbert, who's about to take over as the host of CBS' "Late Show."

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"A white guy on late night? This is revolutionary," Leno joked to reporters Thursday morning at the TV press tour in Beverly Hills. The funnyman was there to promote his new CNBC car show, "Jay Leno's Garage."

In a more serious vein, Leno added: "I would like to see a bit more diversity in late night.... I mean, I'm certainly ready for a female host, another African American host. I mean, Arsenio [Hall] blew the place wide open 20 years ago. I don't know why we haven't had someone else come in."

Chelsea Handler recently ended her E! talk show, while Hall's return to late-night TV fizzled. That has left late-night network TV hosting, once again, a mostly white and male bastion, although a few exceptions exist, such as Comedy Central's Larry Wilmore.

Leno did count himself as a fan of Colbert, who rose to fame as host of Comedy Central's fake-news program "The Colbert Report." "I think he'll be terrific," he said. "He's smart. People think he's this raging liberal. The guy teaches Sunday school. I think he's a pretty conservative guy. So I think he'll do well with mainstream America."

Asked how he was transitioning to life after "Tonight," Leno said he was relieved by not having to spend four or five hours every day writing jokes for that night's telecast. "It's kind of fun not to have that pressure right there anymore," he said. "I loved it when I was doing it. And I love it now that it's over."

But some things still beg to be made fun of. Asked about one of his favorite comic targets, Leno joked that presidential candidate Donald Trump had a medical deferment from military service due to an "inter-rectal cranial inversion."

Another Leno punching bag? His employer. Asked whether some of the driving on "Jay Leno's Garage" might be dangerous, he cracked: "NBC's been trying to kill me for years, so it's OK."

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT

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