Leno by the numbers: 22 years, 44,000 jokes, 4,607 aimed at Clinton

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By Randee Dawn

Over 22 years, "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno has peppered his monologues with pokes at politicians and pop-culture figures alike. But now, as he prepares to step down Thursday, we take a look at who's ended up on the receiving end of those jokes the most.

Drum roll, please ...

It's Bill Clinton, according to a new study released by the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University. The study, which tracked 44,000 jokes over Leno's tenure indicated Clinton was the topic of 4,607 jokes during Leno's reign. That's one of every 10 monologue jokes Leno delivered about public affairs and public figures.

Next up? George W. Bush (3,239), Al Gore (1,026) and Barack Obama (1,011). 

"Leno's monologues focused on power and scandal, and Bill Clinton was the top twofer," CMPA director and GMU professor Dr. Robert Lichter said in a press release. 

Meanwhile, celebrity targets also took a beating, but not nearly as often. The top celebrity joke target was O.J. Simpson, with 795 cracks about him. Next in line: Michael Jackson (505), Martha Stewart (208) and Paris Hilton (153).

Running through the lists is like name-checking the past 20 years of American history: There's Monica Lewinsky (454), Arnold Schwarzenegger (288), Osama bin Laden (216), Lindsay Lohan (153), Britney Spears (42) and Kim Kardashian (37). Hard to believe, but Justin Bieber was the subject of a mere 44 jokes.

Think of Leno as partisan? He's not, really. Though Democrats were more the targets of his jokes (10,885 compared to 9,465 Republican-aimed barbs), that's a relatively even distribution. Also, Democrats occupied the White House for 13 of the 22 years Leno was host. 

The list ended with the Jan. 24 show. Leno leaves "Tonight" this Thursday, and Jimmy Fallon starts his own "Tonight" clock on Feb. 17.