Comedian Jay Leno, who will host the awards ceremony of the $1 million Genesis Prize, in Jerusalem, on May 22, said he considers himself to be "very pro-Jewish, very pro-Israeli."
In a phone interview with Fox News published at the weekend, Leno, who will be making his first trip to Israel for the event, said, "It's a great honor. It's a great country. It's a great people."
While anti-Israel activists are urging entertainers to boycott the Jewish state, Leno said he didn't have "any problem" with his decision to perform in Jerusalem.
"At some point in your life, you have to sort of take sides. I tend to side with the Jewish point of view on many things, especially issues like this one. I realize how important Israel is," Leno said.
Michael Bloomberg, founder of the Bloomberg financial media empire and the former mayor of New York, is being honored as the first recipient of the Genesis Prize — what has been dubbed "the Jewish Nobel Prize" — for his years of public service and philanthropy. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be among the 400 dignitaries in the audience. Grammy-winning pianist Evgeny Kissin will perform.
Leno said he will run his jokes by the "appropriate people," but Netanyahu and Bloomberg, one of the world's richest men, can expect to be the butt of a few of his jokes.
"I think everybody around the world appreciates self-deprecating humor, and I think you can do jokes about the prime minister, and Michael Bloomberg getting the award certainly," Leno said. "They're giving him $1 million. Wow. That's going to change his life."
In the interview, Leno also joked about the recent collapse of Israel-Palestinian Authority peace talks brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry:
"I guess any American that's not John Kerry is more than welcome there right now," Leno said.
Leno hosted NBC's late-night talk show 'The Tonight Show' for more than two decades before retiring in February. He was replaced by former 'Saturday Night Live' star Jimmy Fallon. Leno said he is still performing his stand-up routine five nights a week, but now travelling globally with his routines. He recently performed in China and will stop in London and Rome during his upcoming trip that includes Israel.