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Larry King Live
What's So Funny About Politics?Aired December 20, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, elections aren't supposed to be funny stuff, but as David Letterman said, some jokes just write themselves. Joining us in New York, entrepreneur, author and radio talk-show host Joan Rivers; in Los Angeles, the original political satirist, Mort Sahl; with him, comic Chuck Booms, the co-host of "Kiley and Booms" on Fox Sports radio; and in Washington, our man Tucker Carlson of "The Weekly Standard," and CNN's "SPIN ROOM." They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Humor and politics is as old as Mark Twain, but never as more prevalent as in recent days, and the man who started it all, begins with our panel discussion tonight. Mort Sahl, back in 1958, 59, 60, he caused a stir by wearing that sweater, coming out on major stages across the United States with a rolled up newspaper and just reading headlines and making comments. Did you know you were starting something?
MORT SAHL, COMIC: I was trying to pay the rent.
KING: Did you know that political humor would become what it is now in...
SAHL: Yes, because Adlai Stevenson dropped in to see show in San Francisco he said, you can represent the oppressed majority, the Democrats.
KING: Oppressed majority, but did you know that it would start a wave?
SAHL: No. No. You only know from the opposition.
KING: Joan Rivers, are you surprised that political humor has become the norm of the day?
JOAN RIVERS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I'm thrilled. In the old days you would say, like you know, Linda Byrd and Lucy Baines were bow-wows and you would get hate mail and terrible mail. Nowadays, anything goes. It's wonderful.
KING: Chuck Booms, does anything go? CHUCK BOOMS, COMIC: Absolutely, and I think that one of the shows that came along, as a friend of mine and yours Larry, Bill Maher in "Politically Incorrect" which deals with it every day, and with the cable news channels and so much coverage of politics, and, of course, the debacle we all just went through, the humor just never ends. It really does write itself.
KING: Then you have Jon Stewart.
BOOMS: Jon does a great job on Comedy Central.
KING: Leno and Letterman do politics every night. It's part of the scene, right?
BOOMS: Yes, and I think that it was reflected in the campaign when you saw each candidate vying to get on Letterman a lot, Leno a lot, "Politically Incorrect," a Stewart show as many of those things as they could. Absolutely.
KING: Tucker, what do you make of this boom?
TUCKER CARLSON, CNN "THE SPIN ROOM": Well, I mean, as a general matter, I'm all for it. If I see NBC News cross-promote "Saturday Night Live" a single more time I think I'm going to be ill, but I mean it's, you know, it's humanizing, obviously, for candidates to, you know, tell jokes, but it's also appealing, and it's certainly more interesting than listening to them talk about SDI or something, so I'm for it.
KING: Was this funny, Mort.
SAHL: I was you thinking, you know, maybe we could get a sex scandal for a Republican president to humanize the Republican Party, at long last. Was it funny? You know, Larry...
BOOMS: I'm sure Laura Bush would be happy to hear that.
KING: Was it funny? Was this last six weeks funny?
SAHL: Well, it always is. You know, but, I mean -- my good friend Mark Russell said after the Supreme Court interceded, he said the people have spoken. All five of them.
BOOMS: It was absolutely -- I mean, you could not help but laugh, Larry, the minute you saw the guy with the thing and the ballot, and looking and the other guy with the huge eyes looked like Marty Feldman with the magnifying glass, trying to discern, I mean it -- from the beginning at Palm Beach, all the way out, it really got funnier. It got funnier, and there were characters that developed. You know, the judge, and then...
KING: Everybody became character onto himself.
BOOMS: Absolutely. KING: Joan, did you enjoy it, no matter what side of the political spectrum you were on?
RIVERS: Well, let me -- first of all, to hear the Supreme Court voices, I mean, I had no idea. I have had phone sex with four of them -- it was so fabulous. Just -- it was great. Every day.
CARLSON: I hope Ginsburg wasn't one of the four.
RIVERS: I'm not going kiss-and-tell, but it was just wonderful, I mean even now, we saw Laura Bush, and you now suddenly are aware that Russian women, after you have look at Laura, that Russian women are chic. I mean, there is just so much -- everything that happens, you're just so excited about.
KING: It's starting already. Tucker, is George W. Bush a classic foil for the "Saturday Night Live's," and frankly, even though we know you're a conservative supporter of George W. Bush, is it easy to make fun of him?
CARLSON: I just can't get the image of David Souter and Joan Rivers on the phone out of my mind. Yes, it is. I never found it that funny when people mocked Al Gore. I mean, there was this kind of tragic quality to Gore that made you or least made me feel sorry for him all the way through and its not fun to make fun of people like that, you really feel like crying. Bush, on the other...
RIVERS: Oh, wait a second...
CARLSON: No, no, no, and I mean that in the most loving way. But...
RIVERS: Call yourself sorry for Gore?
CARLSON: Oh, the whole time.
RIVERS: The man's ending up with an American Express commercial.
CARLSON: Oh, the whole time, but he was so uncomfortable from the beginning and to the end and you just felt like at the end, he was released from this role he had been playing unsuccessfully.
RIVERS: He sweated.
CARLSON: I just cried for him.
BOOMS: Yes, I agreed with Tucker. It seemed like at some point he was just -- like Al Gore just wanted to say you know -- it seemed like his father, that the whole thing of living up to his father's expectations were following a him around.
KING: He is a funny guy. You know, if you know Al Gore, Al Gore is funny. BOOMS: Correct, and everybody in Washington who knows him outside of these horrible, dummied-up, wooden appearances says that he's very funny.
KING: What's his problem, Mort.
SAHL: Well, I always felt during the campaign, just as a voter not certainly as performer, I felt that they were both lying, but Gore knew he was lying. So, I voted Republican because I have relatives in Florida, Larry.
KING: Well, you've written for both candidates. You've written for a lot of candidates, right?
SAHL: Yes, I started with President Kennedy. I was the only writer at that time.
KING: But you have written for Republicans, too.
SAHL: Yes, I've written for Alexander Haig; George Bush, Senior; Ronald Reagan; Donald Regan.
CARLSON: Alexander Haig, now there's a cut-up.
KING: In fact, Joan, to give credit where it's due, it was Mort Sahl who give the great line about Al Haig. He's thrown his helmet into the ring.
SAHL: Thank you, Larry.
KING: I never forgot that. Now it's part of the -- is it part of your routine, Joan?
RIVERS: Oh, of course, of course it has -- it started -- God bless Monica Lewinsky and her knees. I mean, you have no idea that the biggest laughs in my act now come from my screaming about Monica, you know, that she was under the desk more than Buddy the dog. I mean, you know, it just -- I brought a pet whale so I could say there she blows. You know...
BOOMS: I would think Joan would have at least something on pregnant chads. That's got to tie in with Joan's friend from high school somewhere, the pregnant chad.
KING: Tucker, is all this, in fact, healthy that we can laugh at ourselves and laugh at our officials?
CARLSON: Oh, yes, well, of course. Oh, it's always healthy. I'm just afraid that the Bush administration is going to be boring. And I mean that both as a compliment because, you know, boring politics is good politics. Sierra Leone has exciting politics. But I just think that the Bush campaign and now the Bush administration is going to go to every effort not to have, say a Joycelyn Elders figure or an Ira Magaziner or Web Hubbell or someone who's easy to mock. I think they really place a premium on boring us. So, that's bad from the point of view of America's entertainers. KING: When we come back, we'll ask our friends whether we're going to miss Bill Clinton. Back with Joan Rivers, Mort Sahl, Chuck Booms, Tucker Carlson. Your phone calls will be included. Tomorrow night, a tribute to Reverend Billy Graham with his kids Franklin Graham and Anne Graham Lotz and Friday night, the I-man, Don Imus. Saturday, Cuba Gooding Jr. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
JAY LENO, HOST: People said Gore was very gracious, but you could see. You could sense the hostility. You see it today when they were -- show them shaking hands. Now, watch Gore very carefully or watch his body language. Ellen, go in close on this handshake, could you? Close, look at that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: Everybody here is all caught up in holiday festivities, even President Clinton. He was decorating the office earlier today. He was hanging the mistletoe under his desk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Anything goes. Chuck, you're going to miss Clinton, even though you're a critic.
BOOMS: Very much so. It's one of those things you don't realize until it's -- until it's starting to set in, and you have a little countdown calendar. And I agree with Tucker: Bush has a tendency to be very boring, and I think that the bumbling of the words thing is going to get to be too repetitive as a humorous thing against him. We're going to need another outlet other than him misspeaking.
KING: Can't be the same joke.
KING: Joan, are you going to miss Clinton?
RIVERS: Oh, am I going to miss Clinton? He was such great fodder. Of course. He was always doing something. He was always in the middle of a scandal. There was always -- files -- you know, thank God she's still going to be around.
KING: Who? Oh, Hillary.
RIVERS: Hillary, uh!
KING: I want to ask you about that in a minute.
Tucker, frankly, are you going to miss him?
CARLSON: Miss him? That implies he's going somewhere. I think we're going to be seeing much more of Clinton than we see him now. I mean, I bet he'll make an end-run at your job, you know.
He will have a talk show, I bet, and I think literally we're going to see and hear more of Bill Clinton on television, and certainly more of the true Bill Clinton, than we ever have. So I just don't expect, you know, probably in my lifetime that I'll ever stop seeing him. So, no, I don't...
BOOMS: His buffoonery may get better out of office. Clinton has the propensity now, since there is no shame -- you know, the guy who pulled the thing in the Oval Office -- he could pop up on "The West Wing" as a guest star. He's going to try acting. Tucker's right, a talk show. There's no end to what he'll try.
KING: What do you make, though, of the American public relationship with him? A high rating?
SAHL: You -- yes, you have to make a choice. It was like having dinner with your folks. When I was about 17 -- my father was boring me with the idea of heroism and aspiring to the level of what he did in World War II. But my brother would take me behind the barn and let me get high; I liked him. He was going to Canada, so he wouldn't -- that's what it was, you know. All the Republicans went to Vietnam and all the Democrats went to Canada. That's what I recall.
BOOMS: I want to have dinner with your brother.
KING: So you're going to miss him?
SAHL: Oh, yes. Can I take a second here, Larry?
SAHL: You know, I worked at the White House with both of them on a PBS special.
KING: Both of who?
SAHL: The President and Senator Clinton -- Senator-elect Clinton, and Yeltsin was at the White House. And there was a photo- op, but they wouldn't run any sound. And Clinton was killing time while they took all the pictures. They're clicking the shudders. And he said to Yeltsin, how's it going?
And Yeltsin said, I have a lot of trouble with the Congress, and I had to open fire on them and repossess that building.
He said, well, I have trouble with the Congress, Clinton said. So Yeltsin said, why don't you do that? So Clinton started to laugh, and then he noticed that Andrea Mitchell from MS was over there taking it down.
So seizing a political opportunity, as Clinton always did -- we admire him for that certainly -- he turned to Yeltsin. He (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He says, well, Mr. President, that's not the way we do things here, and Hillary was kicking the president under the table and she said, keep quiet and listen to him, he's trying to help.
That's as I remember it.
KING: What kind -- what do you think she's -- Chuck, what do you make of the $8 million?
BOOMS: Well, I think even better -- the better story that isn't out, the book deal is funny. The hysterical is the house is up for sale. They haven't even got the plastic off the furniture, for crying out loud, and the house in New York is up for sale, and she's going to Washington.
RIVERS: Thank God.
KING: She's going to take an apartment in Manhattan...
BOOMS: Yes, thank God.
RIVERS: Why, Joan? Why?
RIVERS: Well, the best thing that she won is we got her out of the state.
If I knew we were going to get her out of the state, I would have voted for her. Oh, please.
KING: Why don't you like her, Joan?
RIVERS: Because she's a liar. You know, she's as honest as the day is long in the Antarctic. I mean...
I'm just -- I'm scared she's going to become president, and then all those female interns are going to have the same, you know, problems again. And...
KING: Stop it. Stop it, Joan.
BOOMS: Now we know anything goes on this show. Thanks, Joan.
KING: Oh, I'm just asking questions.
RIVERS: Thank God for...
BOOMS: I didn't know what level we were at.
RIVERS: The lowest.
KING: Tucker, what do you make of Hillary and the book deal?
CARLSON: Well, I mean, you know, the idea that she's making 8 million bucks off talking about her private life after scolding us all this time is annoying. But I guess what I find remarkable is the house in Georgetown. I don't know if you've seen photographs of this house they're looking at for 4 1/2 million, but it looks like a castle. I mean, it's really a Donald Trump-esque piece of real estate, and these enormous turrets on it. I mean, it's -- you can just imagine the Secret Service.
KING: Wasn't that the home of F. Scott Fitzgerald's daughter? Is that who owned the...
RIVERS: No, it was the home of Jackie Onassis' mother?
CARLSON: Right, exactly. There is some...
RIVERS: Jackie Onassis' mother.
CARLSON: There is some sort of very tenuous Camelot connection, but it's just so imperial. It's so not a house of the people. I mean, it's like she's just given up all pretense, which I'm sort of for, I guess, but I still find it amazing.
KING: Are you -- are you -- in her -- speaking for her, being devil's advocate, is it possible she's not buying that house? She just looked at it?
CARLSON: Oh, it's absolutely possible.
KING: And the press is making fun with it.
CARLSON: Well, of course. I mean, that is absolutely true. But even the idea. I mean, when -- you know, to even consider a house like that. (A) It would mess up all the parking in Georgetown, which is of course the key concern here. But the second is, if you're, you know, a populist or a liberal you at least ought to play along and pretend. I mean, you know what I mean? I don't know, you ought to drive a junky car. You ought to live in a small rat-infested rent-control apartment in a bad part of town. I mean, you really ought to suffer along with the people, I think.
SAHL: A rusting Volvo.
CARLSON: Exactly, that's right.
SAHL: If you're a liberal.
BOOMS: Well, yes, let me tell you something, if I'm -- if I'm Paula Jones, I find out the name of the realtor in this house, and I just stop over and start bidding just...
... just to get into the thing with Hillary, and have her find out that Paula wants the house, too. She'll go so high you could -- 10 zillion dollars. I'm not going to get outbid by Paula.
KING: We'll be back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC "THE TONIGHT SHOW")
LENO: Well, the big story is -- I guess you heard about this -- Hillary Clinton getting $8 million. It's like one of the highest ever. $8 million to write about her life in the White House, including all of Bill's affairs.
Well, actually, she can't write about all of his affairs or else it will turn into one of those "Time-Life" series books...
... you know, where you get one a month for 88 months. You know how that works?
But apparently, she will also discuss Bill's affair with Monica Lewinsky, and I understand the chapter on Monica, a little catty.
In fact, that chapter's called "A Double Wide Is Not Just a Trailer," that's what I'm told.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")
WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: Maybe I'll start a war. Wars -- wars are like executions supersized. Did you ever start a war?
DARRELL HAMMOND, ACTOR: No, George, I never did.
FERRELL: I hope I can do it. That Dick Cheney is going to be one tough boss.
HAMMOND: Well, you know, actually, George, you're going to be his boss.
FERRELL: Don't I wish it!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now. Mort Sahl, we were discussing, in the '60s you couldn't have gotten away with this.
SAHL: No. I think, Larry, on balance, that you can attack all of humanity, but you're not allowed to attack one group.
BOOMS: That's very true.
KING: So like Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" wouldn't go today.
BOOMS: Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" could not get away with the jokes, the words, any of that -- even though it's rip-roaring funny. However...
KING: However, you can rip up a president.
BOOMS: Right. You can go after -- Mort's exactly right. You can go after a single individual, and be as vicious about their personal life, their appearance. Look at what they did to -- one of the ones we're leaving out here is Katherine Harris. Oh, my God.
This poor woman walks out with a bullseye on her forehead, and going after her makeup and her hair and her this and her...
KING: What do you make of -- Joan, is just any -- is nothing, nothing sacred, Joan?
RIVERS: And there shouldn't be. This is such a difficult time for the nation, and truly, everyone was so tense and we were all so worried: How was this going to be handled? Will it be handled in a calm way? There were no tanks in the streets. There were no, you know, coups. There were no machine guns. You never heard one bullet. It was an amazing time, the way the country did this process.
And you have to let the steam out some way. And that is humor, Larry. And thank God. Thank God that we could, every night, sit and laugh about it and make jokes about the whole thing.
BOOMS: I wanted to ask, Tucker, since he's in D.C. -- is there any truth to the rumor that it's actually Ruth Buzzy Ginsburg (ph) from the old "Laugh-In" show, because I believe if you look at her from the right angle, Larry, that's Ruth Buzzy?
CARLSON: No, actually...
BOOMS: In the one shot -- in the one shot, Tucker, Artie Johnson actually comes up from behind the chair.
KING: And have you ever seen both of them together? No.
BOOMS: And Larry is right. You've never seen...
SAHL: No tanks in the street, but William Rehnquist with the Nike stripes.
KING: You liked that, yes.
CARLSON: He's made sergeant.
KING: Is it true now that -- we've changed a lot, but you couldn't have rapped -- well, you weren't born. But 40 years ago, you couldn't rap the president. You couldn't rap John F. Kennedy. Steve Allen could not rap John F. Kennedy
CARLSON: No. And the reporters had to hang around and not take notes, et cetera. And I think there was probably a much higher level of collusion between the press and politicians. And that's, on its face, a bad thing. You know, if you know something and you are a reporter, generally, you ought to report it. That's pretty much your job, I guess.
RIVERS: Oh, yes. No, no, no. But at one point...
CARLSON: No, no, no. Yes, yes, yes.
RIVERS: But do we really care...
CARLSON: Yes, actually, we really do. Yes, we really do care.
RIVERS: ... that John Kennedy had girls in the White House. No, we didn't.
CARLSON: No, well...
RIVERS: And it was -- I really...
CARLSON: Actually, as I remember, it spawned about 60 or 70 books and a number of documentaries. And people seemed to care, yes.
RIVERS: Later. Later, but not were while he was our leader, not -- I don't think a man's sex life has anything do with the way he is leading the country. And, truly, I think it is terrible that the press picks up on everything. I think it's awful. It's great for us.
CARLSON: I guess it depends what his sex life is. I mean, there are certain sex lives that are -- you know, probably have an effect on the way somebody governs. I mean, not all sex lives, but some of them.
BOOMS: When we were -- when we were learning about Kennedy in school and all that stuff -- and learning about his many women -- I had thought the Cuban Missile Crisis was actually him having an affair with Chita Rivera. So I had no idea what was going on.
KING: Did you know that when it was happening? You knew John Kennedy. Did you know?
SAHL: I knew John Kennedy very well. And...
KING: Did you know that part of him?
KING: Come on, Mort.
SAHL: You want me to come clean? What -- I will tell you one thing I remember, though. I was on Air Force One with him, flying from L.A. to Palm Springs. You would walk on the front of plane, you would be there. But anyway, Mrs. Kennedy was in air. And William F. Buckley was in there talking to him. And he kept raising his eyebrows and licking his lip, as he does stuff. And then he went to the men's room. And the president had the fire ax under glass over his head.
And Jackie Kennedy said: "He drives me crazy with the relentless mannerisms. I would like to take that ax and cut his tongue off." And the president said to his wife: "He would only grow another one right away." I do remember that.
KING: But nothing about women?
SAHL: Women? He noticed the attractive women.
KING: OK. I have heard.
KING: We'll be right back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be taking calls at the bottom of the hour. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COMEDY CENTRAL "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")
JON STEWART, HOST: Last night, both candidates spoke: first Vice President Gore, then Bush. Let's take a look at our exclusive "Daily Show" Web poll following the speeches. It appears that after Bush's comments, 49,820,518 people reacted positively, while 50,158,094 reacted negatively. It's a difference of more than 338,000 people for Gore. So Bush wins again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE") WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: You would you be here about two hours ago, when the big hand is on 12 and little is on the 1.
DARRELL HAMMOND, ACTOR: I have been to 10 different Chi-Chi's in the Washington area.
FERRELL: I bet they are all great. I used to party my ass off in this place when my dad was president. But now I'm the president.
HAMMOND: I know.
FERRELL: You are not the president, right?
HAMMOND: No, you are, George. Don't worry: no more lawyers.
FERRELL: Then it's official. I'm the president. This is going to be cool.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Hey, Tucker, is anything funny about Dick Cheney?
CARLSON: Is anything funny about Dick Cheney? I can say resoundingly no. But I have to say, the one thing about Bush that strikes me when I watch him on TV, is that he isn't at all like he is when you are with him. I mean, it is always reminds me of experiences you have, you know, in private that are enjoyable and fun and meaningful, but you wouldn't necessarily want to see on camera. That really is the experience of talking to Bush.
I mean, you don't get the sense that he is dumb or vacant or has trouble speaking when you are you with him. But you can get those impressions from watching him on TV. I'm not sure why.
KING: Is that, therefore, true of both candidates: They are different on television than they are? BOOMS: Yes, and I was a very big Bush supporter, as you know. And I was very happy that he won. But even just the other day next to Clinton, it is one of those things -- and even Mort can tell you this from days of the -- like himself -- legends of comedy -- you certainly don't want to follow somebody that just blew the room out. And then you go up and they stare at you. And you can hear crickets in back of the room.
George W. is sitting in the chair. And Clinton is just so perfect and suave at this. And George's foot is tapping on the ground, I was watching. And then he got his first taste of Washington, which is Helen Thomas barking at him for no reason. God almighty, talk about a woman that won't go away!
RIVERS: And he's such a nice guy. I mean, I love George Bush. He's so excited about the inauguration, he kept saying to everybody: We are going to have ice cream!
I mean, it's just so refreshing.
KING: Mort, you were going to...
HAMMOND: I was going to say, Larry: Was it Cheney who said: "Leave no child behind?" We know who he meant, too.
RIVERS: I'm just sorry for Bush.
KING: You feel sorry for him? Why, Joan?
RIVERS: Yes, because he so is easy. You know he's not as dumb as we all are being told he is. And yet every joke that you do now: He had a great visit with Clinton because he got to play with Buddy the dog and Socks. And, I mean, all these jokes just come so easily. And I hope that he will get a persona finally that will not make us be able to write these jokes as quickly as we are writing them.
BOOMS: There is a certain danger -- I think Joan's hitting on something -- there is a certain danger at some point for all of us as comedians, that...
KING: Go too far?
BOOMS: ... if we continue to do this and go too far, we actually destroy Bush's credibility, actually, not only to the population here, but around the world. If everybody in Europe and in Asia and everything thinks, "He's the guy that they are doing on 'Saturday Night Live,'" you are not so worried about pointing missiles or anything else.
And I think that if we go too far -- especially this early -- it's amazing -- he isn't even sworn in -- and we are just destroying him.
CARLSON: So basically, what you are saying is comedians are putting us at risk of nuclear war.
BOOMS: Yes, I... KING: That is what you are saying, Chuck.
(CROSSTALK) SAHL: How about, based on the prognosis of Alan Greenspan, Hollywood makes a science fiction movie where's there a nuclear confrontation and the world ends, and there is only five people left alive, and two of them are out of work? Could we start with that? Why don't we talk about the economy for a minute?
KING: What happened to it today?
SAHL: Why can't anybody fire Greenspan, no matter who is elected?
KING: Why is that? Why is he sacrosanct?
BOOMS: Well, I believe that it is because Andrea Mitchell is a kick boxer. From what I understand, this is a tough broad. And if you get anywhere near Alan, she will just whack you.
KING: Tucker, why won't anybody say: Alan, what are you doing?
CARLSON: I think it's -- well, part of it is, he has become like a talisman, it seems to me. It's sort of Alan Greenspan is on the scene, all is well. Part of -- the other part is: I'm not sure I know anybody who can explain clearly to me what he does.
I mean, I took a go at both of the new Greenspan books -- one on an airplane the other day -- and I literally woke up upon landing. No offense to the person who wrote it. And I really made an effort. I think it's complicated. And I don't think your average reporter -- I count myself among this group -- has the ability to explain it clearly. And, therefore, it gains the sort of magical patina after a while.
KING: Can we get a break? If you join us later, I'll re- introduce our panel and we'll take your phone calls. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
LENO: Hey you know what Bush's Secret Service code name is? I don't known why the Secret Service gives out the code name, but his code name is Tumbler. That's his actual code name. You know what Dick Cheney's Secret Service code name is? Clear. That's his, so if you hear that you'll know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COMEDY CENTRAL "THE DAILY SHOW") JON STEWART, HOST: Well, our long national nightmare is over, and our new national nightmare is set to begin. George W. Bush is the president-elect and that feeling in the pit of your stomach should go away once you take a look at how well your tobacco and pharmaceutical stocks are doing this morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back, and let's meet our panel discussing humor and politics: Joan Rivers, entrepreneur, author, actress and radio host of "The Joan Rivers Show"; the dean of political humor in the United States, Mort Sahl, the pioneer; Chuck Booms, funny guy and the host of "Kiley and Booms" on Fox Sports radio and our own treasure, Tucker Carlson. He has emerged into his own in the year 2000, has he not? He's become a household symbol, staff writer of "The Weekly Standard," writer for "Talk" magazine and the co-host of CNN's "SPIN ROOM."
BOOMS: "THE SPIN ROOM" with one of the real funny cut-up guys, Bill Press. He's a laugh a minute, isn't he?
CARLSON: He is. He's a great man, Chuck.
SAHL: I'll ask the questions.
CARLSON: The Chuck Boom show.
KING: Cushing, Texas, Hello. Cushing, Texas, are you there?
CALLER: Yes, Cushing, Texas here.
KING: Go ahead.
CALLER: If they recount all those votes in Florida and Gore won, what will happen?
KING: What will happen, Mort? Let's say "The Miami Herald" does a recount. Let say they use judges, college professors, impartial people. They check it out in three different way and they say if you counted the chads. They counted this, Gore won. What happens then?
SAHL: Bush will come out of his meeting with Greenspan and demand a recount.
KING: Bush demands recount.
BOOMS: I was under the understanding that in all the other states, perhaps Tucker knows more about this, but I was under the understanding that you weren't allowed to do this. I know they kept saying the Freedom of Information Act, but all the other states I thought the ballots get destroyed.
KING: Florida's Sunshine Law. No Florida court is not televised.
BOOMS: Well, if that's case, and it turns out that way...
KING: What happens?
BOOMS: Yes, then we are in big trouble.
SAHL: It's kind of Jewish. I don't want to know. The anti- Sunshine Law, yes.
KING: Joan, what happens? I mean, Bush doesn't lose the presidency. But what happens to our national psyche?
RIVERS: Well, I think the whole national psyche already is so confused. I mean, in Florida, they were telling people: Call them up and complain. Well, all those Jews down there were calling up and they were complaining like: My son doesn't call me. I have bad elbows.
(LAUGHTER) SAHL: You never faxed us.
RIVERS: They missed the point.
KING: You never faxed us.
Tucker, what happens? Let's say...
CARLSON: If, if, if -- well...
KING: And, by the way, any hypothetical works today.
CARLSON: Well, if the "Miami Herald" counts all the votes under the Freedom of Information Act, and it turns out Gore wins, then I think the only constitutionally appropriate thing is for -- obviously, for Bush to resign. I mean, if a daily newspaper in South Florida decides that Bush has, you know, fewer votes, then, you know -- I mean, no. I mean, I think it's ridiculous. It's ridiculous.
BOOMS: How about Al Gore for governor of Florida?
CARLSON: The whole point of the dispute is that the way you count chads is the crux: that it's subjective. And that's what the whole argument was about. And the idea -- and I don't think anybody disputes this -- that's there a ton of disputes about what a vote is. Right? And so because...
KING: Something that wasn't disputed was, if the chad is loosened, that counts. Everybody said that.
KING: The Supreme Court said that. All the candidates said that.
CARLSON: Well, it depends what do you mean by loosened. If there's...
KING: You know what we mean. The chad is loose -- is apart from the thing.
CARLSON: Oh, a lose chad. OK.
KING: Who doesn't know what a loose chad is? Anyone knows. Tucker, even you know that.
CARLSON: Good point. No, but I do think that the Bush administration at that point will say -- "a," they'll say: The "Miami Herald" says we lost. So?. And "b," they'll say: Gee, the ballots, they spent a lot of time in the Ryder truck. They've been jostled. You know, who knows what happens to chads in a Ryder truck?
KING: But what will it do to the -- will it affect at all the psyche of the administration?
CARLSON: No, I don't think...
CARLSON: I mean, look, it's already a tie. Everyone knows that. And I don't think that the public -- I mean, is there going to be a groundswell for Bush to resign? Bush is going to be president for the next four years. And I just suspect that people are going to say: He's president. We will deal with this again in four years. If we don't like it, we will boot him out.
BOOMS: There actually could be huge tragedy, Larry. On the 21st, Alec Baldwin will be leaving the country. Thank God. And hopefully, he'll take his bad-acting brothers with him. And if they recount and bring Gore back, that means we have four more years of bad motion pictures from Alec Baldwin. And I think that should be enough to suppress the count, because Baldwin said: If Bush wins, I'm leaving.
KING: In fairness, had Gore won, would Heston have left?
BOOMS: No, he would have went and got a gun.
RIVERS: And shot Gore.
SAHL: Gray Davis is trying to disarm Heston, Larry, even as we speak.
BOOMS: You want to take on Moses? That ain't me.
SAHL: You know, there is a Web site call Deport-A-Lib.
KING: Deport-A-Lib? SAHL: A-Lib, trying to -- honest to goodness. And you are supposed to contribute money. They're soliciting money to deport Robert Altman, and Barbra Streisand, and Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen.
KING: Deport to who? You can only deport to countries that they were born in.
SAHL: Because they said they were going to leave -- yes.
BOOMS: They said they would leave.
SAHL: To think, Elian Gonzalez was 21 today.
KING: Well, one relief, though, if it's a Web site, it's out of business tomorrow.
We'll be right back with more of our panel. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
LENO: The Secret Service has finally giving a code name to George W. Bush. It's Tumbler. That's the real code name they're using. Why do they tell people the code name, anyway? Actually the first name they considered -- this is true -- Einstein. No, no. I think that's a much smarter choice. Think about that. I mean, if they are talking on the phone and people are trying to figure out who Einstein is, the last person you are going to think...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN)
LETTERMAN: "TIME" magazine, you know, every year, they have their man of the year or person of the year. George W. Bush, our president, is "Time" magazine's man of the year. Al Gore, when he heard about this, demanded a recount. I said, "What?"
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Back to the calls. Charlottesville, Virginia, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
Hi, Joan. I would like to say hi to you.
Listen, I know that politics has made me much more interested -- I mean comedy has made me more interested in politics, I will say. I am curious about what rest of world thinks about this last six months and the presidency and what this is going say, and honestly I think Bush kind of writes itself, if you know what I mean. The guy's kind of ridiculous. Day to day he's kind of ridiculous.
KING: What's the question?
BOOMS: He wanted know how the rest of the world.
KING: Joan, how does the rest the world look at it?
RIVERS: I was in London both for the Monica Lewinsky scandal and I was also in London -- which is funny that this gentlemen called -- during all this and they just think we're idiots. But, you know, again, look at what they've got to contend with. I mean, they've got their own stuff. I just think that Bush is going to be fine. I think he's going to surround himself with wonderful people and he's a nice man. He's a humble man. He never brags that he's got an eighth grade, you know, graduation certificate and God bless him.
SAHL: I thought you were going to say and eighth grade administration.
RIVERS: That was joke I screwed up. I was going for a joke that didn't work.
BOOMS: Actually, around the world, there is reaction and I understand they're taking it very hard in New Bekistan, where they have one television for the entire country. You know, I mean, it's funny when somebody calls in the United States and wants to know how they are taking it around the world. We can name -- you know, how many countries. They don't even have running water, for God's sake. What do we care what they think?
KING: It counts, doesn't it or you don't care?
RIVERS: You don't care.
KING: You don't care?
BOOMS: Yes, you do care, but not to the point where -- I mean, Tony Blair has his own problems. I mean, the French, for God's sake. They're going to make fun of us? At any point they may need our help to bail them out of something.
KING: All right, Tucker, is there any area you worry about internationally.
CARLSON: Oh, I don't -- I mean I agree with Chuck that the French, no matter what happens, are going to make fun of us and that's their problem as far as I'm concerned. But, no, I mean, look at point the president -- I mean, one thing we've learned over the past eight years is the presidency in some important way distinct from the president himself and that the United States, you know. you can have someone at the helm who, you know, has personal issues, but that doesn't diminish the majesty and the power of the United States.
KING: Around the world.
CARLSON: That's absolutely right.
KING: What did you think of Colin Powell's appointment, Mort?
SAHL: Well, it's not exactly Jesse Jackson, is it Larry? You all remember Jesse Jackson? A man of the cloth, cashmere and who said, I have a scheme.
BOOMS: Jesse's certainly emerged here Larry, back -- well, I mean, he gave all new buffoonery to himself. Sharpton, these guys. You know, it was interesting. I mean, he's comparing things to the Dred Scott case. He's bringing up the Holocaust. He's doing all these different things and it seems as if he gets away with it, and you must admit there is some humor in the fact -- and I want to here Joan on this one -- that guy who referred to New York City as Hymie- town is down in Palm Beach defending the rights of Jewish voters. Well, there's a good guy you want defending you.
RIVER: Yes, but wait a second. As a Jew, there's defending and there's defending. And this guy is defending, you know.
BOOMS: Hell, yes.
CARLSON: That's a subtle distinction.
KING: Las Vegas, go ahead.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. How does the panel think that the media will treat this presidency?
KING: Chuck -- by the way, what is media. What's the media?
BOOMS: Well, it's interesting now and it's setting up in different teams.
KING: You're the media. You'll like him.
BOOMS: Yes, to some extent, yes, and what's great is about your show and lot of these shows is they're a lot more fair about...
KING: We're fair.
BOOMS: Yes, absolutely. They'll be a couple people that like Bush, a couple people that don't and what it does is it shakes out and you get a chance to see it. The thing I'm most concerned about is the network nightly news, but with the CNNs and the Fox and the MSNBC a lot people are tuning them out but Rather -- he lost a lot of credibility in this thing. I mean, God almighty, he was -- you could read his moods as the bad news was coming in for Gore. Then when the Supreme Court thing came and he thought he had a chance I was waiting for him to reach under the desk and have pom-poms. I mean, those guys are the one I think that are not going to like Bush.
KING: Tucker, do you think the evening news is unfair?
CARLSON: I'm not sure who watches it, but it's a Dan Rather -- I mean, I couldn't even understand what he was saying. It was like crack them like a squirrel in a hickory fire, like a doggy -- it was like bizarre metaphor after bizarre metaphor. If there was bias there, I couldn't even get past the weirdness to get it.
BOOMS: Yes, it was. It was like Perot was behind him, feeding him these -- I was waiting for Rather to look up and go it was like a chicken in a bread patch picking out dough.
KING: Do you the network news is biased, Mort? You've been watching it longer than anybody.
SAHL: Well, I never did people, but what happens is people come along and accuse them of being on the left and it kind of reinforces them. They're just about running out of gas and somebody comes along and says you're radical, then all those guys say, I am? And it gives them a new lease on live.
KING: They like it.
KING: Joan, do you think they're unfair on NBC, ABC and CBS?
RIVERS: Oh, I think they tend very much so, you know, to be very liberal. Also the comedians. That's what's really turning this whole thing so badly. I mean, "Saturday Night Live" is not going to let go of Bush. Bill Maher is not going to let go of Bush.
BOOMS: Yes, right.
KING: But they would have done the same to Gore in all fairness, don't you think?
RIVERS: Pardon me.
KING: They would have done the same to Gore. "Saturday Night Live" would have done the same thing to Gore.
RIVERS: Oh, not the way they're going after Bush. No way. No way, because they all love Bush. They all love Gore, rather.
BOOMS: I have to disagree with Joan on that, Larry, and I agree with you. I think that when they show the two characters, they're both buffoons. And you know, the whole thing is about Gore and you see even the subtleties where he's rolling the eyes and doing the stuff he did in the debate.
KING: It's a parody.
BOOMS: It's a parody guy who, you know, said he invented the Internet. KING: The "Saturday Night Live's," the Mort Sahls, the Jay Lenos cannot like the president. If they like him...
SAHL: That's right, you have to be a subversive.
KING: If they like him too much it ain't going to work.
BOOMS: But can a Mort Sahl look the president on his own and still do his stage show?
SAHL: Yes, a fair example...
KING: But you can't like him on camera.
BOOMS: Well, that's true because then it's not funny.
SAHL: When Reagan was president, Nancy took a cake down as he goes through 70s, you know, and I had seen Ted Kennedy there and somebody said, why don't you attack Reagan about this legislation and Ted Kennedy said, attack Reagan? Good luck. You're kidding.
Anyway, she came in with a cake into the press room at the White House and she cut it. She said this is for Ronnie's birthday, and Sam Donaldson, you get the first piece. And all the guys and his colleagues said, oh, you sold out for a piece of cake to the Reagan. And President Reagan walked in and said you sold out for a lot less than a piece of cake a long time ago and the house came down.
KING: We'll be back with more. Don't go away
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN")
CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST: According to a new poll -- this is interesting. According to a new poll that just came out, a majority of Americans think that Al Gore will win if he faces off against George W. Bush in the 2004 election.
O'BRIEN: That's what they said. Of course, they don't think Gore will become president, they just think he'll win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")
LENO: Hey, do you realize -- hey, give Bush credit. Do you realize Bush has now named more black people to his administration than voted for him.
LENO: You've got to give him credit. Pretty good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That was a good line, right guys.
BOOMS: Great line.
KING: Good writers go in here, right Mort?
SAHL: Well, it should be -- humor should be dangerous, Larry. I don't think we can by this without making that point. Rather then just should -- it should penetrate rather than just be topical, youth serum face cream. Example, Alexander Haig was a great admirer of yours, as you know.
KING: Great guy.
SAHL: He was in Russia recently, you know, in his business, and he said: I walked in a Russian hotel, and there were all these 55- year-old entrepreneurs setting up the net, and they all had 600 Mercedes in the parking lot and 18-year-old girls on their arms and Rolexes. And he said, "I could have been in Beverly Hills." And I said to him, "Except there weren't any communists."
Well, that's a tough joke, right? I mean, you know...
KING: Well, you once said, "Is there anyone I haven't offended," right?
SAHL: Yes, I said it many times.
KING: It should be, don't you agree, Tucker, it should be gutsy? Humor should be gutsy.
CARLSON: Oh, yes, and I also think journalism ought to be. I mean, I'm much more comfortable seeing reporters, and for that matter, comics -- I don't know -- mock a president than, you know, be in deep sympathy with him.
I was at the White House correspondents dinner last year or the year before, and I was sitting next to a reporter whom I like, and Clinton was speaking. This reporter turns to me and says: "You know, isn't" -- misty-eyed -- "isn't he wonderful?"
I don't know, that -- there was something creepy about that. I'd much rather be sitting next to a drunk reporter coming out with a stream of nasty comments about the president than hear that. I mean, that's what gives you the willies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tucker.
BOOMS: Absolutely. And -- sorry about that. The correspondents dinner, Larry, ever since Bill Maher and I believe Imus -- the I-Man will be on with you in a couple of days -- set the tone with a really nasty attack on the president, which for all of us was very funny -- that was the on-the-edge comedy you're talking about -- but they didn't want that there...
KING: It doesn't work if they're in the room.
BOOMS: It doesn't work if they're in the room. But then Ray Romano did it, who's a great comedian, great guy...
BOOMS: But it was so milquetoast and so vanilla that -- that the whole...
BOOMS: ... just sat there.
KING: Joan, do you agree that for this comedy to be effective it must have guts?
RIVERS: Oh, it's got to have guts and you can never do it when the person's in the room. Everything they're saying is right. You know, suddenly you go, oh, well, I don't really mean it. Of course, it's got to have guts, and you've got to be an outsider. You can't be dancing at the ball, and then go out and do jokes about the president. It can't be both.
BOOMS: But the Dean Martin roasts -- you remember those in the '70s -- they roasted Reagan and a lot of people, and they were in the room, and they were vicious attacks...
RIVERS: Oh, they weren't vicious.
BOOMS: But it was all in fun.
RIVERS: It was silly.
KING: A Dean Martin roast -- it was silly -- would not have -- Bill Clinton -- there would have been no Monica jokes at a Dean Martin roast today.
BOOMS: You don't think. I...
RIVERS: No. They -- no...
SAHL: You know, I was just going to say, Larry, Tucker, are you suggesting that if the press can be seduced on a sentimental or fraternal level they won't go for the story? Is that what you're talking about a moment ago? CARLSON: No, I'm not sure -- I guess -- I mean, look, there's nothing wrong with noticing or admiring even the strengths of someone you cover. But there is something unsettling about identifying too much with the person. You ought to be standing back and outside, sort of peering in at the person you're writing about. I mean, that's your job.
KING: Let me get a break and we'll come back with our remaining moments with this panel. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COMEDY CENTRAL "THE DAILY SHOW")
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I was not put in a place to inflict my views on you. It's my -- what is my role as a judge.
I'm a Cowboys fan. I can't require you to be one. You see what I'm saying?
I like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I can't require you to like the Buccaneers. Do you see what I'm saying?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, HOST: You see, what he's saying is the founding fathers failed to foresee that the National Football League would ever expand into the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg's region, so the law is really fuzzy on that.
He picked -- he picked our president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: One more call. Los Alamitos, California, hello.
CALLER: Larry, my question is now that Clinton and Gore are going from the White House, what's going to happen to Rush Limbaugh?
KING: What happens to Rush Limbaugh and the right-wingers of the media who don't have him...
BOOMS: Rush's Rush's...
KING: Well, they'll hit him anyway, right?
BOOMS: Rush's take has always been when the liberals are out of power they get even goofier and wackier than they were when they were... KING: Yes, but there's no -- but if you're hitting, what are you going to do, hit Hillary every day?
BOOMS: I think you hit -- I think he'll hit Hillary. I think that...
KING: But she's not running the show.
BOOMS: I just think -- I agree with Tucker earlier in the show that Clinton and Gore, these guys aren't going away. You'll still see enough of these guys floating around and...
KING: So therefore, the right-wing is happy, right, Tucker, that Hillary is in the Senate?
CARLSON: No, I think it's a national...
KING: Come on, you're happy.
CARLSON: No, I think it's a national tragedy of cosmic proportions. I think, you know, Rush Limbaugh is not going away. Apparently, he just signed a new deal. If there were no liberals, he would talk about himself, which is what he essentially does anyway.
I do think, though, that the joy here, that the kernel of profound happiness that is being ignored is that Bill Clinton won't be president anymore. And I think no matter who is elected, that's the central story here: no more Clinton. The long national nightmare is over, and I've been giving thanks for it.
KING: But if it's a nightmare, Tucker, how come his rating is higher than Reagan's, Eisenhower's, Kennedy's?
CARLSON: You know, that is one of those cosmic mysteries. I don't have room for that in my mind, so I can't actually answer that question, to be honest with you.
BOOMS: Maybe that's what Greenspan does.
I mean, we finally figured it out. That's his gig, to make those numbers go up.
SAHL: His, -- Greenspan's gig is, if you see a panhandler and you take pity on him, you try to put 5 bucks in his Dixie Cup, Greenspan stops you because it might heat up the economy. That's his gig.
KING: Joan, do you think the right-wing is going to miss Clinton?
RIVERS: Oh, never mind the right-wing. I'm going to miss Clinton. It's going -- it was so fabulous. I mean, he was always doing something. He was a great figure, he was a colorful figure. There was always a joke to be written. Of course, we're going to miss him.
KING: Drove his enemies nuts.
RIVERS: I just hope Hillary makes a fool of herself.
KING: Got to admit that, Chuck.
KING: If you were an enemy of Clinton, he drove you nuts.
BOOMS: Absolutely drove me nuts. I only have one request to the Clintons, when they leave on January 20th, take the sheets with you.
KING: Oh, on that note, we thank Joan Rivers, Mort Sahl, Chuck Booms, and Tucker Carlson for being our guests. Tomorrow night, Franklin Graham and Anne Graham Lotz, the son and daughter of Billy Graham. Billy's 82 now. It's tough for him to do media, so we're going to have a little tribute to him and talk about religion as we approach the Christmas holiday. Don Imus on Friday.
Next is "CNN TONIGHT" with Perri Peltz. I'm Larry King. For the whole group, good night.
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