Presidential pratfalls: Clinton shows off his comedic side

Video spoofing last days in office induces howls of laughter. But the question remains: What will he do for an encore?

Jay Leno, watch out.

The leader of the free world, a k a Bill Clinton, is about to be out of work, and has shown that he can be just as funny as the pros - or even funnier.

The video, created for the White House Correspondents dinner, caused many Americans to voluntarily tune into C-SPAN for the first time, causing some to wonder if the president could be the channel's answer to Regis Philbin.

Clinton's self-deprecating turn in front of the video camera has caused almost as many line-by-line analyses as the independent counsel's report. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has even requested a copy.

It had to be, without a doubt, the funniest thing ever intentionally produced by the White House. Try to imagine President Nixon putting out a parody of himself, complete with peace-sign waving gesture and jowly "I am not a crook" pronouncement.

For those who missed the live C-SPAN broadcast, it can be viewed on the Web at www.c-span.org.

In the video, the president - playing himself, and filmed at the White House - has so little to do in his remaining months of lame duckery that he's mowing the Lawn himself, watching his laundry go round and round in the machine, and playing Battleship with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs in the Situation Room.

His wife, Hillary, is shown riding off in a limo, with Bill chasing behind, waving her bag lunch.

It was elaborate enough - produced, in fact, by Phil Rosenthal, creator of TV's "Everybody Loves Raymond" - that it suggests an ironic conclusion: This president really doesn't have enough to do. After the first wave of boffo reviews, naysayers are wondering aloud why the president of the United States is demeaning his office by starring in a video that makes him look so much like Everyman.

But then, that has been part of the secret of his presidency - and his ability to get elected in the first place. He is so relaxed playing to a big room, so quick on his feet, that Washington wags speculate he really may have a future in Hollywood.

In the meantime, many of the lines from his speech bear repeating: "Over the last 10 months, I've lost 10 pounds. Where did they go? Why haven't I produced them to the independent counsel? How have some of them managed to wind up on Tim Russert?"

Or his joke about Sen. John McCain, an ex-Vietnam POW. "As you all know," Clinton observed, "he just made a difficult journey back to a place where he endured unspeakable abuse at the hands of his oppressors - the Senate Republican caucus."

Come January, when a new president takes office, where will Clinton wind up? Stay tuned.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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