TCA: Leno Takes Another One On the Chin From TV's Funny Ladies

From Ray Richmond, who is contributing to Deadline Hollywood’s TCA coverage:

It’s amazing how even when he isn’t present or even mentioned by name, any discussion of the late-night talk show landscape finds Jay Leno having to absorb a shot or two. Or three.

It happened again today during a lunchtime Funny Women of 20th comedy panel – staged as part of the TCA event on the Fox lot – that featured Jimmy Kimmel moderating a lively Q&A session with Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara of ABC’s Modern Family, Jane Lynch and Lea Michele of Fox’s Glee, Alyson Hannigan of CBS’s How I Met Your Mother, and Martha Plimpton of Fox’s Raising Hope.

The moment in question happened toward the end of the 45-minute discussion when a question was asked about what the women saw as the trick to having a successful late-night talk show appearance. Kimmel mentioned how absurd it’s gotten with the need to be funny, that “it doesn’t matter if you bring Dr. (Jack) Kevorkian on. It’s, like, what anecdotes does he have to share with us?”

That’s when Hannigan chimed in that, well, it all really depends on the host. “Certain hosts have you do your pre-interview and then you have to go on the show and retell every story verbatim or you’re not coming back,” Hannigan said. “Every show is different that way.”

And which show is it that forced you to repeat every pre-interview anecdote verbatim? “I’m not saying,” Hannigan replied, “but it’s not Jimmy’s. And that’s really intimidating to have it be a big deal if you, like, switch around your punchline or whatever. There are a lot of other hosts where it’s OK to tell this story or that story, and if it veers off it’s fine because the host is secure enough to go with you, and vice-versa.”

It was only afterward that it was confirmed Hannigan was referring specifically to Leno, when Kimmel was asked if he had anything negative to say about Leno (as he had during the Leno-Conan debacle last year). “Slam Leno? Oh, uh, I think Alyson just did,” he said.

And so, she had, without even naming names.

Earlier in the Q&A, Kimmel asked Plimpton if her Raising Hope costar Cloris Leachman were sick of hearing about Betty White already – to which Plimpton replied, “Absolutely, she is. Their rivalry is well-documented.” The feisty Plimpton also wasn’t shy about assessing the increased number of weighty roles for women on comedy series. “We’re not there because men are suddenly allowing us to be there. We’re there because we’ve earned it.”

Bowen also let it be known that she’s ecstatic to be playing a mother on Modern Family after years of roles as sitcom eye candy. “I have played the girlfriend roles for years, and I find it a relief to finally get to play a mom,” Bowen said. “It’s like, wait, so you like something about me other than you might want to bang me? I want to get old in this business. I want to get saggy old, really old, things-dropping-down-into-my-socks old. Very few women in television comedy have had a chance to do that. So it’s thrilling to know that, wow, they like something about me other than my prospective bangability.”

At the same time, Bowen observed that this notion of value in something beyond sex appeal was likely lost on Kimmel. “No, I’m into the whole package,” he assured.

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