More good news for the monologue: Mr. T has cancer.
No, no, no. We did not do a joke about Mr. T having cancer.
Here’s a bad thing that happened instead: Yesterday afternoon Clinton had a press conference to explain that he was going to keep trying to use executive privilege to protect his aides from testifying about Monica Lewinsky. He wanted to make one thing perfectly clear: This was nothing like Nixon using executive privilege to protect his aides from testifying about things. (Make your own joke about getting stonewalled but not inhaling. I couldn’t quite.) The press conference happened after we had “locked” that day’s monologue–Bill had chosen it, we had run it by network standards and loaded it in the prompter. When something happens, like a president explaining he’s not like another president who’s not, like, a crook, we write a late round of jokes. Certain bureaucratic steps get skipped. In this case, the result was that Bill chose, and performed, a joke (not mine, thank you) about how the president’s problems go to show that if you’re promiscuous, you have to be worried about aides. The audience found this reasonably amusing, but one of the panelists, the choreographer and AIDS activist Bill T. Jones, didn’t. Jones brought this up on the show, and it was uncomfortable, but it all turned out fine. After all, what are a few hundred thousand deaths between friends.
The thing was, though, it was a preventable mistake. Bill should have been reminded. He could have still done the joke, but he should have known before he made the call. It should have been caught.
Ambassador Alan Keyes–who ran for president on a joke job at the state department and a visceral aversion to a woman’s right to choose–has dropped out of tonight’s show. Speaking only for myself, of course, and not for the program, I think Ambassador Alan Keyes is an ambassador like Cap’n Crunch is a captain. But it will be hard to find someone with his stature, charm, and intellectual gifts at such short notice. Right now our options are a schizophrenic street person or Arianna Huffington.
We still don’t have a TV mom for tonight’s sketch.
Do you want to know the oldest comedy prop in the world? It’s in the Theogony. Hesiod is describing how far Tartarus is from heaven:
An anvil made of bronze, falling from heaven,
Would fall nine nights and days, and on the tenth
Would reach the earth; and if the anvil fell
From earth, would fall again nine nights and days
And come to Tartarus upon the tenth.
Think about it. The falling anvil predates the Road Runner by 2,750 years.
Do you want to know the oldest joke in the world? It’s also from the Theogony:
Kronos, in his right hand took
The great long jagged sickle; eagerly
He harvested his father’s genitals
And threw them off behind.
A guy getting it right in the nuts is the oldest joke in the world.