LOS ANGELES — The presidential election isn’t over and neither is television’s gleeful skewering of the cliffhanger race and its candidates.
“So here’s the deal: we have George W. Bush, not the president of the United States; Al W. Gore, not president of the United States – whaddaya say we just leave it that way?” David Letterman wisecracked on CBS’ “Late Show” Wednesday.
The uncertain presidential outcome, being decided by a recount of the Florida vote, proved as irresistible to television comics as the lengthy campaign had been.
The issue, said Jay Leno on NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” has international ramifications.
“The rest of the world is getting nervous. Like today, the Chinese said, ‘We don’t know who to write our checks to,”’ Leno joked in his monologue Wednesday.
If the recount fails to settle the issue, Jon Stewart said during a promotional spot for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” that Bush and Gore “will stand in opposite corners of the country, call to Florida in a soothing voice and see which one the state comes to.”
Even ABC’s “The Drew Carey Show,” which aired live Wednesday, got in on the act. In the middle of one scene, Carey breaks for a “bulletin” from ABC News.
“All the votes from Florida have been counted,” says Carey, reading from a slip of paper, “and it looks like Al Gore is the president-elect of the United States.”
He is handed another slip of paper.
“This is incredible! After counting all the overseas absentee ballots, George W. Bush is now the president-elect of the United States.”
He is handed yet another slip.
“Hold on!” he erupts. “It now appears, ladies and gentlemen, that I’ve just been screwing with you. I don’t know a damn thing!”
The candidates themselves, predictably, were prime comedic targets.
“The outcome of the election still has not been determined, and now apparently it all comes down to how the Floridians voted,” Conan O’Brien said on NBC’s “Late Night.” “After hearing this, George W. Bush said ’please, let’s not bring foreigners into this.”’
“Both candidates are feeling the pressure,” Bill Maher joked on ABC’s “Politically Incorrect.” “Al Gore has been testy with his staff .... and late today George W. Bush broke down and yelled at his parents, ‘You promised!”’
“I’m not saying Bush is getting confident he is going to win, but today he spent all day trying to pronounce ‘inaugural,”’ Leno said.
Letterman dished it out to both presidential contenders.
“In times like this, it really makes you wonder about George W. Bush. ... Does he understand what’s going on? Earlier today down in Austin, George W. Bush held a press conference and demanded a refill.”
And of Gore: He “voted the same way yesterday that he does for every election: He went into the voting booth, closed the curtain and made out with Tipper.”
The late-night gang made it clear the Clinton comedy era hasn’t wrapped either.
“Yesterday, after President Clinton cast his ballot in New York, he took a picture with four women wearing Hillary Clinton masks,” O’Brien said. “The women said the reason they put the Hillary masks on was because that way, the president wouldn’t hit on them.”
Joked Leno: “I guess you know Hillary got elected (to the U.S. Senate). Hillary is going to Washington. Of course, Bill is ecstatic because, you know, he’s leaving Washington.”