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Late-night TV study finds Jay Leno's jokes are red, Jon Stewart's are blue

October 29, 2010 |  4:45 pm

JonstewartRESIZED This might not come as news to late-night TV junkies, but as Jon Stewart prepares for his Saturday rally in Washington, a new study adds to evidence that the partisan divide splitting America extends to the jokes told by hosts.

NBC's Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon take swipes at Democrats or liberals two-thirds of the time, while Comedy Central's Stewart and CBS' David Letterman aim three-fourths of their barbs at conservatives, according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a nonprofit research organization affiliated with George Mason University.

From Jan. 1 through Labor Day, the four comics combined told 1,625 jokes directed at partisan targets, the study found. The most frequent target was President Obama (309), followed by Sarah Palin (137), George W. Bush (132) and Joe Biden (94).

Palin, who has tangled publicly with Letterman in the past, might be justified in feeling some resentment toward the comic. Letterman told 58 jokes about the former Alaska governor, far more than any other comic.

JaylenoRESIZED Stewart has turned Glenn Beck into something of an obsession, telling 44 jokes about the Fox News host, or 88% of all jokes told by late-night hosts about Beck.

Meanwhile, Leno hammered away at Al Gore, joking about the former vice president 29 times. And he and Fallon have enjoyed ribbing Biden, with 27 jabs apiece at the current vice president.

"Just as conservatives get their political news from Fox and liberals from MSNBC, conservatives are getting their political humor from NBC and liberals from Comedy Central," Robert Lichter, the president of the center, said in a statement. Referring to Stewart's rally, Lichter observed: "Jon Stewart’s approach to Glenn Beck is to beat him and then join him."

-- Scott Collins

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT

Top photo: Jon Stewart. Credit: Jason DeCrow / Associated Press

Bottom photo: Jay Leno. Credit: Carlos Osorio / Associated Press