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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Obama: Commander of Comedy?; Pivotal Day in Iranian Contested Election

Aired June 19, 2009 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And there he is, the president of the United States, at the Radio & TV Correspondents Association Dinner right here in Washington, telling some good jokes -- some politically correct jokes. And there's no doubt he got serious at the end over what's going on in Iran right now.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer sitting in for Larry King right now.

Let's talk about the president of the United States -- not necessarily commander-in-chief, but comedian-in-chief -- for at least a little while right now.

Joining us now, some special guests.

In Los Angeles, Penn Jillette. He's the illusionist, the author, the libertarian and the larger, more talkative half of Penn and Teller. Season 7 of their series, "B.S." Premieres June 25th on Showtime.

Also joining us, my friend Mo Rocca. He's in New York. He's the comedian, the political satirist, TV personality who performed at last year's at Correspondents Dinner here in Washington.

Nancy Giles is with us, as well. She's a social commentator, the actress and contributor to CBS News' "Sunday Morning."

And from San Francisco, Will Durst, the comedian and political satirist, is here, as well. His most recent book is entitled, "The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing

Common Sense Rantings From A Raging Moderate."

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

We'll start with you, Penn.

What do you think of the president as a comedian?

PENN JILLETTE, ILLUSIONIST: I've got to tell you, I think that the president doing stand-up comedy is just the coolest thing in the world. I mean I disagree with him on so much. But I just -- it makes me -- there's no more patriotic moment than the president getting up and doing not what he does best, which is tell jokes. And I think it's great that we have such a respect for -- for comedy and a sense of humor. And I love that he mentioned your name.

How boss was that, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BLITZER: A nice shout out.

Mo Rocca, what did you think?

MO ROCCA, COMEDIAN, POLITICAL SATIRIST, TV PERSONALITY: I think he did a nice job. And I kind of like the fact that he laughs at his own jokes and he realizes that it's slightly ridiculous, that it was only five weeks ago that he was having to tell jokes before.

And at this dinner -- and I can tell you, because I was there, the Radio & Television Correspondents Dinner is kind of, you know, it's the ugly stepchild. It's the Nikki Hilton to the White House Correspondents Dinner, you know, Paris Hilton. It's -- it's not the same.

BLITZER: Well, what's -- not the same about it, because I've been going for 25 years to these dinners?

And tonight I'm missing it because I'm filling in for Larry. But they're both pretty good, you've got to admit.

ROCCA: They're all right. But the other one has all the stars. I mean, come on. And this one has more people and the food's not as good.

BLITZER: Well, you may be right about that.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right, Nancy, what do you think?

NANCY GILES, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR, ACTRESS: Well, I think it's cool that Mo got to go. So stars or no stars, I agree with both Penn and with Mo.

I like the fact that the president has such a great sense of humor. It shows you that he's intelligent. He laughs at his own jokes, kind of like Harvey Korman used to on the old "Carol Burnett Show," which I like.

And, also, I thought he did a very impressive sell job on that -- that car at the end. He's got a great voice. I could really see him doing voice-overs for -- for Chrysler.

I think why not?

BLITZER: Yes. He -- he was very good, because a lot of people want those car companies right now. And he's potentially giving them away.

All right. Let's talk to Will. What did you think of this stand-up?

WILL DURST, COMEDIAN, POLITICAL SATIRIST: I thought he was great. And like Mo and Nancy, I -- I really liked the fact that he doesn't take himself too seriously. He's kind of got a little Carson kind of a thing, where he's laughing at -- he sells the joke by laughing when it dies up there. And just -- just that -- he's got a natural rhythm (INAUDIBLE)...

ROCCA: I didn't get the joke that really died, though.

Was it -- he said Uighurs?

What was that thing he said?

BLITZER: Yes, those are those Chinese...

GILES: Oh, yes. I didn't understand that one.

BLITZER: ...the Chinese -- those are the Chinese Muslims who were at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, who've been sent to Bermuda, of all places.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: You obviously...

ROCCA: Oh, You've got to know your audience.

(CROSSTALK)

ROCCA: That's a very niche joke.

BLITZER: Mo, you're not following THE SITUATION ROOM as closely as I assumed you always were, because...

ROCCA: I've been spending a lot of time in my own situation room.

BLITZER: You've got your own situation room. Yes, we've got a situation...

JILLETTE: It's also great that they couldn't get a newer joke than "Leave It To Beaver."

(LAUGHTER)

JILLETTE: So even -- all parts of it -- even if you knew the Chinese part of it, the Bermuda part of it, you still had to remember Jerry Mathers in "Leave It To Beaver."

(LAUGHTER)

GILES: TV land is very pro-Obama. Oh, yes.

JILLETTE: Yes.

BLITZER: Penn, is this an event that you would like to -- to perform at one night?

JILLETTE: I think that -- I think it's much better if you have -- if you have politicians telling jokes than...

BLITZER: But they always...

JILLETTE: ...it's an audience I would not want to work at all.

BLITZER: They always have a comedian there, as well.

JILLETTE: Yes. I would -- I do not envy that position at all, because it seems like you can't win. If you're -- if you're -- if you're mean and really say stuff that matters, then it's disrespectful. And if you just suck up to them, then you're not a comedian.

I think it's...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

JILLETTE: ...the wonderful thing about this is having someone who doesn't tell jokes, who in some deep level isn't supposed to tell jokes...

GILES: That's right.

JILLETTE: There's something wrong about it. There's a sense that you're kind of hanging out with the president and he's saying goofy stuff and that's wonderful.

I would not want to be in the position of having to work in front of there, because we want to -- you know, Tell and I want to be a little shocking. And I -- I think that no matter who does that, it's always a little bit -- you never know exactly where to go...

BLITZER: Well, you know, most...

GILES: Plus, I would think...

JILLETTE: ...whereas the president just has to be sweet.

BLITZER: Let me let Mo...

GILES: And I would think...

BLITZER: Let me let -- Nancy, hold on one second.

GILES: OK.

BLITZER: Because Mo -- Mo was there last year at the Correspondents Dinner. And I thought you -- you did really well and you struck that proper balance.

ROCCA: Well, I appreciate that. I'll tell you one thing that I did come away with.

And can I just unveil it right now?

This is the first time I've shown it on TV. I'll be very quick about this. But I got to sit next to Dick Cheney, because President Bush was with Pope Benedict at the time, so Cheney was the main attraction there.

And he's a very picky eater. I think it has something to do with his heart. But anyway, he took two bites from his dinner roll -- and I've never shown this. I've kept it in my freezer for a full year.

(LAUGHTER)

ROCCA: But I took -- this is absolutely true, Wolf. I took his dinner roll.

GILES: Oh, man.

ROCCA: Because I handed it to the person that had come with me and wrapped it in the napkin. And this is -- absolutely. This is the dinner roll that Dick Cheney took a couple of bites from. It's been in my freezer for an entire year. And I'm telling you, we can submit it to a DNA test.

JILLETTE: We have his DNA.

ROCCA: Yes.

JILLETTE: We can...

ROCCA: He has dental records.

JILLETTE: We can rebuild him.

GILES: Oh, no. It's like having the nose in that character from "Sleeper." Just having his part of that role could build a whole other Dick Cheney.

JILLETTE: Boy, that was good TV. That was some good TV.

BLITZER: You know, I may be naive, but I actually believe Mo Rocca, that he's not making this up.

ROCCA: It's totally true.

BLITZER: I believe you. I believe you. I may be...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ...I may be the only one who believes you, but I do believe you.

ROCCA: The eyeteeth are really, really long.

GILES: Wow, Mo. (LAUGHTER)

JILLETTE: I believe you. I believe you 100 percent. That doesn't mean I like it, but I believe you.

BLITZER: Will...

DURST: I think it would be a great gig.

Now, I'm a political comic. And what happened during Bush was that there were so many comics who didn't normally do political stuff, who couldn't control their enmity. And it just spewed out of them. And everybody was doing political material about George Bush.

BLITZER: All right...

DURST: And now, you know, the decks have kind of been cleared. It's hard to do jokes about Obama.

BLITZER: It's...

DURST: You can't mock hope. It's like kicking a small furry whimpering thing with big eyes, you know?

GILES: Well, the nice thing about...

BLITZER: All right. Hold on. Hold on, Nancy. Hold on, Nancy...

GILES: Oh...

BLITZER: ...because I want to take a quick break.

There are viewers in the United States and around the world who didn't hear all of these presidential jokes. We're going to be playing several of them throughout this hour. I want everyone to standby.

The president of the United States, the comedian-in-chief, at least on this night, will continue, right here on LARRY KING LIVE, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: One person that you know could not be here tonight is Secretary Hillary Clinton. As most of you know, Hillary broke her elbow a few days ago on her way to the White House. And we all wish her a very speedy recovery.

I do have to say, though, that while it's been reported as an accident, there were some suspicious circumstances. Just before the incident, the Secret Service spotted Richard Holbrooke spraying WD-40 all over the driveway.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: So now, on top of the cost of health care and energy and the recovery plan, we've got another fiscal problem. Fortunately, the lawyers tell me that Hillary's ready to settle.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I have to admit, though, it wasn't easy coming up with fresh material for this dinner. A few nights ago, I was up tossing and turning, trying to figure out exactly what to say. Finally, when I couldn't get back to sleep, I rolled over and asked Brian Williams what he thought.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Very funny, Nancy. A reference to that day at the White House that Brian Williams of NBC News spent over there. Got a little grief, but the president having some fun with that.

GILES: I know. That was pretty hilarious. Actually, the image of him and Brian Williams right next to him, that's a little troubling.

But one of the things I was going to say about performing at that dinner is that that -- that crowd, I mean that they take themselves so seriously. They're politicians, you know. They live in this really tight circle in the Beltway, where their whole lives are the work that they do in K Street. And I would imagine trying to make fun of them or mocking them would not go over well, because they are way too high and mighty to want to laugh at themselves.

BLITZER: I think a lot of them, Mo, you've been in Washington for a long time. You know what it's like. A lot of them just love the fact that the president of the United States mentions their names.

ROCCA: Absolutely. I mean it's very -- it's very insular. And, you know, it's almost like -- it's almost like its own -- well, it is its own little world, right?

I mean I noticed last year, for instance, Cheney was very funny, in fact. And I think for the reasons Penn was sort of alluding to, the idea of somebody that we're used to seeing a very stiff, scripted way, you know, delivering jokes.

But, you know, let's face it, probably most of the press corps are Democrats. So it was a little bit odd to see them sort of, you know, just falling over themselves with adulation for him.

So it's a -- it's very -- it's very clubby.

BLITZER: The joke about Hillary Clinton and Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, you know, you've got to be a Washington insider, Penn, to really understand some of the -- the humor and the turf -- the jealousies that go on in Washington, I suppose.

JILLETTE: Well, I don't think that, you know, that's really so far from the point. I think you could watch this and not get any of the jokes and really, really enjoy it just because we don't see other world leaders even trying to be goofy. And I think that's a -- that's a really wonderful American thing.

And I also like that he went slower than he usually talks. And all amateurs who are telling jokes speed up. He got great coaching. He goes almost too slow in places. And that's the mistake you want to make when you're not used to telling jokes.

GILES: No, that's a good point.

BLITZER: And Will, you've got to admit, he's great with a speech, with or without a teleprompter, for that -- for that matter.

DURST: Oh, no he...

BLITZER: He's a great speaker.

DURST: No, he -- he can tell a joke. Bush could tell a joke, too. I mean, we remember when he was looking for weapons of mass destruction. I thought -- I thought Bush's writer was pretty good.

But Obama's got kind of a ribald sense of humor. I mean there was the time he was on "Leno" and -- or "Letterman." And he did a Special Olympics joke. And here he did a Brian Williams toilet joke. And I kind of like that, you know. It shows that he's -- he -- he understands his audience.

BLITZER: Is -- Nancy, is the president of the United States too visible on television right now?

You heard the criticism from Bill Maher...

GILES: I heard.

BLITZER: ...just a week ago.

Does Bill Maher have a point?

GILES: Well, no. I -- I like that he's so visible. I just want him to use that time -- if you want to call it celebrity time, I want it to be used for good and not evil, like they say in the Marvel comics things.

You know, I think that -- I agree with Penn, that to see somebody that's kind of goofy is a nice change from the way we picture other world leaders.

But I'd like him to be going out like telling people we're doing single payer, we're doing health care and like nip it, no more discussion. I'd like to see a little more of that.

BLITZER: I think Penn will disagree with you on some of those issues.

But hold your fire, guys, because we're going to take another quick break.

More of the -- the president's jokes and more with our panel, coming up right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: And happening now, Wolf Blitzer is here. He's the only man -- he's the only other man in America with his own Situation Room.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: People assume that mine is cooler, but this is not the case. As hard as we've tried, we have not been able to generate the bandwidth necessary to turn Larry Summers into a hologram.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: We can't do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He's right. My SITUATION ROOM is much cooler than the Situation Room over at the West Wing of the White House.

Mo Rocca, have you been over there to the real Situation Room in the White House?

ROCCA: I think I've been -- well, I've gone into the West Wing a couple of times. And I've been right outside the Situation Room. It's like sort of -- you go down some steps, right, from the -- from the area overall...

BLITZER: Yes. It's in the lower level of -- in the West Wing. But I've got to tell you, we've got a lot more screens than they have. We've got a lot more fancy technology than they have.

ROCCA: And they have a really shiny table that you can look in. There's a little window in the door and I can see that...

BLITZER: The president, he's got a conference table. It's -- it's a lot less impressive than it sounds. But, you know, the national security of the United States is involved there.

What did you think of that joke?

ROCCA: Oh, I thought it was very funny. I mean -- and I was certainly happy for you.

No, I thought it's -- and it was, you know, it's very wonky. It's geeky. It's in character for him. People have to remember that he is geeky and wonky. Another thing is, I think a lot of people thought that because Obama is so smooth that it would be hard to make fun of him and that it might be hard for him to actually be funny.

But, of course, that comes in handy when you're delivering punch lines...

JILLETTE: But he also...

ROCCA: ...because being smooth is helpful, I think.

JILLETTE: He also didn't do, really, very many jokes about himself at all. I mean the -- the car company and being the salesman was a nice little hug. But mostly he was just name checking and doing references.

I mean my favorite joke was the -- was the Schwarzenegger joke. But also the car thing was great.

But there wasn't very much of attacking himself in that.

BLITZER: No. Not too much...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Not too much self-deprecating humor, Will.

DURST: Do you guys remember the Al Smith dinner where he and McCain -- I think it was two years ago...

ROCCA: Yes.

GILES: Oh, right.

DURST: And he was doing all those jokes about I was born in a stable and stuff. And I thought that was his natural sense of humor that was coming out. You know, there was -- you know, he was kind of -- he's kind of arrogant, but it was -- it was funny. And he's smart. And we tried arrogant and dim and that -- and that didn't (INAUDIBLE).

GILES: Well, he can...

(LAUGHTER)

GILES: He can laugh at himself and laugh at where he's come from and really make fun of that. And I think that he -- that he can be made fun of. I remember when he first started, a lot of people were saying, oh, how can we do jokes about Obama?

You can't. And maybe they were worried about whether they'd be perceived as bigots or whatnot.

All it takes is a little bit more work and you can definitely make fun of him.

BLITZER: If you're -- if you're good, you're good. GILES: Yes.

BLITZER: By the way, I just want to let our viewers know, all of our guests tonight, they're here via satellite, not holograms, by any means.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: They're actually here. You guys can feel and touch yourself and make sure you're there.

All right, standby.

We've got a lot more to assess as far as the president of the United States is concerned over at the Radio & TV Correspondents Association Dinner.

Standby.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: ABC is planning a series called "Dancing with The Czars."

TLC's got something called "Jon and Kate plus Peter Orszag."

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: That's going to be good.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Nick At Nite has a new take on an old classic, "Leave it To Uighurs."

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I thought that was pretty good.

Of course, given the fiscal crisis in California, these shows all will be competing directly with Governor Schwarzenegger's new reality series, "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!"

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: That's how I feel tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: For those of our viewers who don't know, Peter Orszag, the budget director over at the White House. You've got to be an insider to appreciate that joke about Peter Orszag.

Will Durst, you've got a book that's out and I want to put the book jacket up on the screen and show our viewers. It's entitled "The All-American Sport of Con" -- "The All-American Sport."..

DURST: "Bipartisan Bashing."

BLITZER: "of Bipartisan" -- it's not even printed here. There it is, right there -- "The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing."

What does that mean?

DURST: Well, I -- I pretty much take on both sides. And I must admit that the last eight years, you know it was hard to take out the -- because, you know, you had Bush and Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. "Scooter" Libby, he was a lush tropical rainforest on one side. And the other side, you know, you can't mock a vacuum. It was like stapling smoke.

So it -- it's kind of nice to have Obama. And there will be jokes, like Nancy was saying, it's going to take a while to churn and for us to understand, you know, all the per -- because the more we know, the more that there's to make fun...

GILES: Right.

DURST: ...that we can mock and scoff and talk.

BLITZER: Is it more difficult...

DURST: And Sotomayor, you know?

BLITZER: Nancy, is it more difficult for white people to make jokes about this president than it is for black people to make jokes about this president?

GILES: Well, if they're unfunny white people, yes, then it's very, very bad.

(LAUGHTER)

GILES: But again, if you're a good writer -- thank you, whoever did that.

If you're a good writer and you can expand your vision and do things like latch onto -- I think -- I remember seeing a JibJab comedy bit. And they made fun of him being this angelic feature -- creature that sort of rose on the scene.

I mean there are lots of things that can be done. I don't happen to always subscribe to the you can't make fun if you're not the race. But what it all comes down to, if you're good at what you do and if you're just plain funny. So funny people, yes. Unfunny people, stay away.

BLITZER: Let me bring back Penn.

Penn, you liked his -- his performance tonight, the president of the United States, although you suggested you disagree with some of his policies. Like what?

JILLETTE: Well, I -- I wish he was doing more change from what Bush was doing. I mean I wish there were less war. I wish there were less bailouts. I'm not happy about us owning big parts of General Motors. I would like the government to be getting smaller instead of bigger.

But none of that -- you know, that's -- that's not important when he's telling jokes. It was just to see how lovable he was. And we have not had a president this lovable ever.

As a matter of fact, my biggest complaint about him is I wish people liked him a little less. I don't think it's that healthy to love the person who's running the country that much.

BLITZER: But you know, Mo, he still has very high job approval numbers -- around 60 percent, which is very impressive. Although the numbers, as far as some of the specific policies are concerned, not necessarily all that great any more.

ROCCA: That's right. There's a pretty big disparity there. And I think he seems to recognize that people have a lot of affection and that, obviously, the press has a lot of affection for him, because, you know, tonight he didn't make a lot of jokes about himself. But the one sort of theme seemed to be how the press loves him. So I think he sort of recognizes that he's -- and can make fun of the fact that he's magnetic, charismatic.

But, meanwhile, you're right. Yes.

BLITZER: Well, but you know what...

ROCCA: ...there's not that much approval on policy.

BLITZER: The truth of the matter is that a lot -- most of the time, a new president comes in and the press is pretty nice, at least at the beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.

BLITZER: Ronald Reagan got great press at the beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

GILES: Oh, sure.

BLITZER: Even President George W. Bush, before 9/11 and certainly after 9/11, he got pretty good press, as well.

JILLETTE: I think at this point...

ROCCA: Yes, it's only been six months.

BLITZER: Yes. So it'll -- it'll change at some point, is that what you're saying? ROCCA: Probably. I imagine so. Yes. I mean, we're all so impatient. I mean we all have short attention spans. So you're right, there was always this honeymoon period and he's only been there for six months.

GILES: I agree with what Penn was saying earlier, there is this urge, since he came in on the change mantle. You want change now, now. You want all of these things, but you don't want to pay for it. But you want it now, now, now.

DURST: Baby steps, baby steps.

BLITZER: Well, standby, guys, we've got many more baby steps ahead of us. More of the president's sense of humor coming up right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Look, it's nothing personal, but this dinner conflicts with my date night. I was supposed to be going out with Michelle for Thai food in Bangkok.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Very funny, Nancy. That is a funny joke, isn't it?

GILES: It is. And it makes fun of the fact that I know people's eyebrows were a bit arched when Michelle came out to London and the girls came out --

BLITZER: To Paris, to Paris.

GILES: That's right, to Paris. And they had, you know, these exotic times with them. And people are very aware. They're acutely aware of that the fact that he is a man who loves his wife and they go out and do things.

BLITZER: The girls went to Paris. They didn't go to London, although Michelle Obama, the First Lady, did go and catch up with him in London, as well.

GILES: And I thought she did take them to tea with her, is that right?

BLITZER: I don't think the little girls were there. I think they stayed home, because they had school. But they did -- they did come to Paris. They didn't go to London.

GILES: It was Paris, yes.

BLITZER: They went to the Eiffel Tower.

GILES: All those exotic European cities, they all just jumble in my head. BLITZER: No, this relationship, the date night and all of that, it's really a fabulous example for a lot of folks out there who are just watching the first family. And it is an incredibly impressive family. You've got to admit, even we saw today when the president was at that Father's Day event over at the White House, Will.

DURST: Well, he does things differently than Bush did. And it seems like he's more a guy of the people. He's actually going out to restaurants in D.C. And I don't know about you, but the last time I was in D.C., they were complaining that Bush never went out to eat, that Bush was such a home body.

Remember, Clinton was always eating. But the thing about bush was he was kind of a stay at home guy. And Obama's bringing it out again. And I think it's good for the restaurants.

BLITZER: Absolutely great for the restaurant business. Mo, you grew up in this area, so you know he's not just going to the fancy restaurants in Georgetown. He's heading to some of the other places, as well, even if he wants to go get a hamburger.

ROCCA: Sure, and I've seen you on many a date night at the Houston's up in Bethesda.

BLITZER: I have seen you there, that's right, with your beautiful and lovely mother.

ROCCA: Well, thank you, and my aunt, Julita (ph), my Colombian aunt who loved Wolf and calls him, El Lobos, the wolf, literally, in Spanish. No, the Bush's did -- Will is right. The Bush's treated the White House almost like a green zone inside Baghdad, like it was this sort of fortified territory. Not to take a cheap shot at them, but it does seems like the Obamas are making an effort, even if it's just symbolic, to get out and that D.C. is a city where people live, a lot of people live.

BLITZER: Penn, you're still out in Las Vegas, right?

JILLETTE: Well, actually, I'm in L.A. now, but we're playing in Las Vegas.

BLITZER: But you're still doing the show, which is one of the best shows out in Las Vegas. I've been there. We've had dinner. And it's a great, great show. How is he playing in Vegas, which is hurting right now. He did tell a joke about Vegas. The mayor, Oscar Goodman, got all bent out of shape. A lot of people were complaining that he was undermining tourism and conventions in Vegas.

JILLETTE: Well, they were, and I think I'm in that category too. When you pick a city whose major source of income is tourism, and the president says don't go there, it kind of bummed us a little bit. But his -- you know, we are a convention city, big corporations. It's a very set-up to do big conventions. And when the president says -- I think he was making an entirely different point. But just the sentence, don't go to Las Vegas said by the president kind of bums the wonderful people of Las Vegas. I don't think that's surprising. BLITZER: Nancy, I think what he was trying to say, and he obviously didn't do it well when he was talking about Vegas and conventions, some of those junkets that these big corporations are having, spending a lot of money going out to Vegas --

GILES: That's what it was.

BLITZER: -- the best way to spend that money during these tough times.

GILES: I really agree with you, Wolf. I think that's what he meant. I don't think he meant --

BLITZER: He may have meant that, but it didn't come across like that, especially in Vegas.

GILES: Yes.

JILLETTE: Also, sometimes, people on those junkets come to see the Penn and Teller show at the Rio and that makes us happy.

GILES: Penn, I'm sure he didn't mean to attack you and Teller personally.

(CROSS TALK)

ROCCA: You wouldn't except bailout money, would you, Penn?

JILLETTE: We haven't been offered it. We'd have to be tested, I think. And if you'd like to test us, we'd love to try.

BLITZER: I've been to the Rio to see Penn and Teller. It's a great, great show. All right, guys, standby, we're going to continue this conversation. More of the president's humor from tonight right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The truth is, I've said all along, I have no ambition to run an auto company. I'm not the salesman in chief. And GM will rise or fall on the quality of its products, like the taught athletic design of the new Buick Enclave. It's French seemed leather and warmed wood tones make the Enclave more than transportation. It's a modern drivers retreat.

Come on, work with me here. I've got cars to move people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Very funny. Nancy, have you ever met the president of the United States.

GILES: No, but I will tell you one funny thing. Actually, it references back to something Will was saying. It was so easy to make fun of the Bush administration back in the day. Wow, it's not even that long ago. And although I like to make fun of a lot of people, I have to say, I was so thrilled and excited during the campaign and then he won.

On the day after the inauguration, I remember putting on a skirt and make up and just walking down the streets of New York going, he's the president; he's my president. It's like I had a crush on him.

I also agree with what Penn was saying. It's maybe not so great to have a crush on your president. But no, I haven't met him. I'd probably be bashful if I did.

BLITZER: Let me ask you this: the night we announced that he had won the election, and you heard it, it was at 11:00 p.m. Eastern time. We projected he had carried enough electoral votes, more than 270, to be president. Did you cry?

GILES: Well, that's so funny. I was too shocked to cry. But starting at about two minutes to 11:00, I got phone calls from my friends all over the country going, I'm crying, are you crying? I'm crying. You're not crying? I was shocked. I was just shocked. So no, I didn't cry. What I can tell you?

BLITZER: A lot of people did cry. But I want to hear Penn Jillette, you didn't cry, did you?

JILLETTE: No, right at about 11:03, I put on a make up and a skirt and heels, and I walked down the streets of New York, going he's our president, he's our president. I don't think I actually cried.

ROCCA: Why are you all putting on skirts, but not tops.

GILES: Oh, I had a top on. Come on, Mo.

JILLETTE: I did not.

DURST: I was on the Golden Gate Bridge, because I had a gig in Mill Valley. And so my wife and I are at the Golden Gate Bridge going north, and we're between the two spans. And we have XM on our radio, so we were listening to CNN.

We heard Wolf call it. And I swear to god, we were high fiving and people were honking on the Golden Gate Bridge all the way in to Mill Valley. It was kind of goose pimply. It was neat.

BLITZER: It was one of those moments millions and millions of people around the world will always remember, where they were precisely at 11:00 p.m. Eastern on November 4th. Mo, what are you up to nowadays?

ROCCA: I'm working on CBS Sunday Morning, which Nancy also works on. I'm on -- wait, wait, don't tell me -- on NPR, which I know you've come on, Wolf. I do a bunch of things.

BLITZER: That's a great show.

ROCCA: Spending a lot of time at the gym and working on my tan, also.

BLITZER: You're looking very, very good.

ROCCA: You don't have to say that.

BLITZER: This Sunday morning, by the way, Harry Smith has an interview with the president of the United States that he did today going to air on CBS Sunday Morning.

ROCCA: Which Nancy and I turned down.

GILES: I was too bashful, Wolf. I just didn't think I could get through it without crying or something.

BLITZER: It's an amazing --

ROCCA: Somebody get her a towel.

BLITZER: It's an amazing situation.

All right, the president of the United States, he was funny, but at the end of his remarks he turned very, very serious on an important issue affecting the world right now: what's happening on the streets of Iran. We're going to discuss that, make the turn to Iran, because there's developing news happening on that front right now.

Let me thank our guests. Penn Jillette, Mo Rocca, Nancy Giles, Will Durst; you guys are terrific. Good luck to all of you. When we come back, we'll make the turn to Iran. We'll go to Tehran, see what's happening now. We could be only hours, hours away from a confrontation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The situation in Iran in just a moment. But it's time for this week's CNN hero. Tonight, we salute a truly remarkable woman. Ten years ago, Rose Mapendo survived a harrowing experience in a Congolese death camp. She went on to start a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and resettling endangered refugees.

Just yesterday, she was honored as a humanitarian of the year by the U.N.'s Refugee Agency. Rose Mapendo is a CNN hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN SARANDON, ACTRESS: When I first met rose, I was so taken by her heart. She's the story of the power of forgiveness. I'm Susan Sarandon and my hero fights for the survival and resettlement of refugees.

ROSE MAPENDO, CNN HERO: I never, never thought the genocide can happen in Congo. They put us in prison. They were so angry for God. When I found out I was pregnant, I said, God, accept in my life, forgive me. I forgive those enemies. That day is the day I survive.

SARANDON: She's dedicated her whole life to saving these refugees that are falling through the cracks with Mapendo.

MAPENDO: Mapendo International is my hope. It's my answer for my prayer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And you can learn more about Rose Mapendo and nominate a hero of your own, CNN.com/Heroes. We're happy to announce that CNN Heroes is now on Facebook. Join the CNN Heroes family to see exclusive hero footage and get updates on your favorite heroes at Facebook.com/CNNHeroes.

We'll take a quick break. When we come back, we'll unfold what's going on right now. They're getting ready potentially for a confrontation on the streets of Iran. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is a potentially very significant moment in the history of Iran right now. Let's get the latest on what's going on, because it's a very fluid and dramatic situation. Joining us here in Washington is the journalist, Robin Wright. She's traveled to Iran nearly every year since 1979, has interviewed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Her latest book is called "Dreams and Shadows, The Future of the Middle East."

Roger Cohen is an op-ed columnist for the "New York Times." And in Los Angeles, Hossein Hedjazi. He's the Iranian born host of a political news show on "Pars TV."

But first, let's check in with CNN's Reza Sayah. He's in Tehran on the dramatic developments in Iran. Here is his report that he filed earlier today from Tehran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the emotions, the feelings have evolved. It's been up and down. I think earlier in the week, you did see some excitement. Before that, you saw a lot of tension with those brutal crackdowns on the part of riot police and members of the besieged.

And now, what I'm sensing is some tension reemerging. We spoke to some supporters of Mr. Mousavi every day. We asked them, do you plan to attend another rally? Do you plan to attend another demonstration? And they said yes. Tomorrow, they are planning to attend the demonstrations.

But they were clearly tense. They heard the supreme leader's message today. He made it crystal clear that he doesn't want to see anymore of these protests. Keep in mind, this regime over the last 30 years has been very uncommunicative. They have played it very close to the vest. They don't like their conflicts within to be played out in the public. That's what we've seen over the past week.

So he's made it clear that he doesn't want to see any more of these public protests. And the supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi realize that this is an important day, that they may be on the verge -- this regime may be on the verge of getting ready for a crackdown, much tougher than we saw earlier this week.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Reza Sayah, our man in Tehran, one of the few Western journalists still reporting from Tehran. Robin Wright, you have been in these situations. You covered it for many years. Next few hours, am I exaggerating, could be critical?

ROBIN WRIGHT, INTERVIEWED AHMADINEJAD, KHAMENEI: The escalation today really is remarkable. He's taken this to a whole new level. He has given notice to the opposition that he will broken no demonstrations and he's prepared to use the instruments of the state in order to make sure that doesn't happen.

This division is now no longer about just who is the next president of Iran? It's very much pitting the supreme leader, the symbol of the revolution, against those who are arguing for a different vision of the Islamic republic. And the stakes, now, are much greater.

BLITZER: Roger Cohen of the "New York Times," the columnist, is on the phone, joining us now from Iran. Roger, tell us what you're seeing, what you're hearing. Perhaps, most important, what you're feeling.

ROGER COHEN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I will. It's early morning here In Tehran. The city is quiet for now. I was out last night. And it's tense. It's very tense. There were a lot of Basij on the street, this armed militia, that go around in jeans, t-shirt, helmets, shields and batons, truncheons. They were standing all around the square and up the big avenue, called Vali Asr, as I walked up there.

And there's no question that the statement of the supreme leader, the speech sermon yesterday, in which he laid down a line in the sand and said, no more of this, and essentially dismissed the recount, and made it very clear that his tolerance for this had reached its limit, that has changed the atmosphere.

And the demonstration scheduled for 4:00 p.m. this afternoon is looming as a kind of high noon here in Iran.

BLITZER: They're seven hours ahead of the East Coast? Is that right?

COHEN: We're eight and a half hours.

BLITZER: So, that's about 8:30 in the morning, or something like that, Eastern Time, when that demonstration will unfold.

COHEN: That's right. Yes. Yes.

BLITZER: Something like that. Roger, just to tell our viewers, the Grand Ayatollah said no demonstrations. But the opposition seems to be going forward with a massive demonstration. The question is, will there be bloodshed?

COHEN: Well, the demonstration Monday, the sea of green for Mir Hossein Mousavi, was one of the most extraordinary events I've witnessed in my long career as a journalist. The mayor of Tehran is now saying, having measured this on maps, that there were probably three million people there. And this is all being organized, essentially, through word of mouth, because texting is cut off. Cell phones are cut off. It's very hard to communicate.

Now, can this be reproduced in this tenser environment since yesterday? That remains to be seen. But, for now, Mousavi is not standing down. The spotlight is on him. How will he respond to this speech? For now, it seems that he is going to try to lead his supporters out into the street again. And, of course, the threat, that violence, possibly mass arrest, possibly worse, could be used, is there.

BLITZER: Stand by, Roger. Robin, stand by. Hussein, I want to bring you in in a moment. A lot more to talk about.

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. More on Iran, a very, very fluid situation. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Hussein, the president, tonight, spoke movingly about the situation in Iran.

HOSSEIN HEDJAZI, HOST, "PARS TV": Yes. But the people are expecting more. Me, myself, before, are thinking that Mr. Obama is doing the right thing not to take a position. But right now, in any account, the Grand Ayatollah has accused -- directly accused Mr. Obama of meddling in Iranian affairs. I think a lot of my people would like to have Mr. Obama with a stronger voice.

BLITZER: Let me ask Robin, you think he's got to be tougher? Or is he just right?

WRIGHT: No, I think he's actually being very wise in holding back. The real danger for the United States is that it becomes the issue in this confrontation, rather than allowing it to play out domestically at home among the different factions.

BLITZER: Guys, this story is not going away. CNN is going to be all over it this weekend. Larry will have a live show tomorrow night. I'll be back in "THE SITUATION ROOM" on Monday. Thanks for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. "AC 360" starts right now.