MONDAY MEMORY: The night Jay Leno called Brian Cowen a 'drunken moron' on US television

Justin Kelly


Justin Kelly


In 2010, Ireland was in the grips of a recession and Taoiseach Brian Cowen was under intense pressure as dole queues grew longer, taxes got higher, and people became more and more impatient with the Fianna Fail led government. 

In September of that year, Jay Leno played a game called Bartender, Politician or Comic on his prime time US late night talk show. The game uses pictures and asks the audience to indicate which profession they think the individual has.

The Tonight Show attracted in excess of 4 million viewers at the time in America and the producers pulled up a fairly unflattering photograph of the Clara native. 

No one in the audience had him pegged as a barman, but they were fairly split between comic and politician.

After revealing Cowen as the 'Prime Minister of Ireland, Leno joked: "Oh God, it's so nice to know we're not the only country with drunken morons, isn't it?"

In the wake of the incident, people felt Leno should apologise but Brian Cowen didn't call for any such apology himself, and eventually, as these things do, it all blew over before the General Election. 

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