LOS ANGELES – Jay Leno says he can still write the Michael Jackson jokes, he just can't tell them.
So while the "Tonight Show" host waits to hear whether he is exempt from a gag order barring potential witnesses from discussing Jackson's child-molestation trial, Leno called on actor Brad Garrett (search) to act as his Jackson joke-telling surrogate.
"As I'm sure you know, I was called as a witness in the Michael Jackson trial," Leno told his audience Friday night. "I'm going to tell the jury the same thing I'm telling you right now. I only rode that llama once. I didn't know it was underage.
"I'm not allowed to tell any Michael Jackson (search) jokes. I can still write them," Leno added before handing the reins to Garrett. The co-star of "Everybody Loves Raymond" then reeled off several one-liners, including this one:
"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."
Leno, who has been subpoenaed to testify at Jackson's trial, is seeking an exemption to Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville's (search) gag order, citing his right to free speech.
A legal motion filed on his behalf argues Melville couldn't have intended for the order, issued more than a year ago, to limit "public personalities" from commenting on the case.
On Thursday, one of Jackson's attorneys, Robert Sanger (search), filed a response, arguing Leno should not be exempted from the order.
"While the need for a protective order is unfortunate and does come at some cost, it is necessary to protect Mr. Jackson's right to a fair trial," Sanger wrote.
Then the lawyer tossed in his own zinger.
"One is reminded of the depression that overtook the comedy community when Richard Nixon stepped down from the presidency," he said in a footnote to his motion.