Videos: After Aurora theater shooting, Craig Ferguson strikes right tone, Jay Leno doesn't

craig ferguson aurora theater shooting.jpg
Videos below.
As was the case following the 1999 Columbine tragedy, late-night hosts faced a difficult task in dealing with early Friday's shootings at the Century 16 in Aurora. How to treat this horrific incident respectfully and then attempt to make the nation laugh?

That night, Craig Ferguson passed the test -- and Jay Leno failed it. See their efforts below.

On Friday, David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel were in repeat mode, and Jimmy Fallon didn't address the shooting. In contrast, Leno, the grand old man of late night, prefaced his monologue (shot, as usual, before a live audience) by acknowledging the Colorado attack in perfunctory fashion before noting that his job was to amuse folks with silly stuff -- at which point he pivoted into a story about the owner of a Georgia farm who reported the escape of 1,600 turtles.

Yuk, yuk.

Ferguson chose a very different and far more admirable tack. He opened in a pre-recorded segment to point out that the show viewers were about to see (featuring actor Jason Biggs, actress Jordana Brewster and comedian Brian Scolaro) had actually been cut the night before -- and his original monologue had riffed on Batman. That makes sense, of course: On Friday, The Dark Knight Rises, one of the summer's biggest event movies, was scheduled to premiere. But Ferguson said he didn't feel the material was appropriate considering what had taken place at an Aurora midnight screening, so he scrapped it in favor of simply speaking to viewers at home, with no whooping crowd to witness his words.

Not that Ferguson relished the opportunity to weigh in. "I didn't really want to add my rage and despair to everybody else's," he said -- and even though he'd chosen to speak about the subject, "I'm not going to try to make sense of it, I'm not going to try to blame anyone for what happened there. How do you make sense of anything like that?

"I try for the most part to ignore stories that are grisly, because it's not really my job," he went on. "It's being covered everywhere else." Still, "I can't ignore this one -- but neither can I talk about it in front of an audience with the skeleton robot. That doesn't make sense, either."

He then shared a direct message to those watching in Aurora and the Denver metro area: "I'm sorry.... It's just awful, and my thoughts and my sympathies to the families, to the people that were there. We are all diminished by this."

The results were awkward, halting, totally sincere and entirely appropriate -- the opposite of Leno's tack. Compare their approaches below.

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Aurora theater shooting: Police chief says James Holmes's apartment was rigged to kill."

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10 comments
andrew
andrew

Honestly I think if Jay would have said that afterward and had a moment of silence. It wouldn't have been as bad, I personally didn't find it very awkward but I can see how other people would have. Although I am very surprised that Dane Cook, the no talent clown and excuse for a comedian, and his joke was not mentioned. As for Craig I've always respected him both as a comedian and a person. The way he handled the tragedy couldn't have been better. And he was right it might have offended people if he had opened the show with "It's a great day for America". Craig Ferguson will always be one of the best comedians in my mind.

KAFCook
KAFCook

It is moments like this that cement in my heart what a GREAT person Craig Ferguson must be.... Thanks Craig! 

Suck it Leno...  NBC, get Conan back already...  (as if he'd come)

deb0nair2
deb0nair2

Ferguson is a class act all the way!  Leno...not so much...but then we already knew that.

rvs44
rvs44

I thought they were both fine....

jabuhrer
jabuhrer

Episode #2574987 of "Jay Leno is a stupid asshole."

rain
rain

Gotta love Craig Ferguson.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

 @rvs44 Thanks for sharing your thoughts, rvs44. Much appreciated.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 @rain 

 

He's looking a lot thinner these days ...

 

 

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