Jay Leno may be legally enjoined from telling Michael Jackson jokes, but he can still write them. Subpoenaed by Jackson’s defense team, the Tonight host is now keeping mum because he may be subject to the gag rule the court has imposed on everyone associated with the trial. But he’s found a novel solution that helps him keep the jokes in his monologue: hire a surrogate comic. On Friday, that was Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Brad Garrett, who rattled off several of them on Friday’s show.
In his opening statement last week, Jackson lawyer Thomas Mesereau claimed that the family of the singer’s young accuser has tried to exploit his cancer-patient status to coax money from a number of celebrities, including Leno, who Mesereau said called Santa Barbara police because he was suspicious about a phone call the boy made to solicit the comic’s help in financing his treatment. The day after the defense subpoenaed Leno last month, his lawyers filed a motion arguing that he should be exempt from the gag order. But the Associated Press reports that Jackson attorney Robert Sanger filed an opposing motion last week, arguing that the gag order was unfortunate but necessary to protect his client’s right to a fair trial.
On Friday, with Leno standing silently by his side, Garrett began with a reference to a current movie, referring to the Jackson trial as ”Diary of a Mad White Woman.” Another joke: ”They said this trial will probably last six months, although Michael Jackson asked for some time off to entertain the troops. OK, they’re Cub Scout troops, but they’re still troops.” It’s not clear whether Garrett will continue as Leno’s stand-in stand-up, or whether the court can order Leno to write funnier jokes.