Like or dislike Sarah Palin, it would be hard to argue that her decision to appear on the Tonight Show last night was a bad call. In fact, it was pretty gosh darn smart (see video below).
Perhaps her appearance with Conan O'Brien is one of the reasons her approval rating continues to move upward. She seems less constrained now and more willing to take on her critics or laugh at herself and others. Better advisers? Whatever, it's working.
She was praised back in 2008 for showing up on Saturday Night Live and confronting her TV impersonator Tina Fey. And she had rave reviews for her comments at last week's Gridiron Dinner in Washington, DC. But last night's performance might be her best yet.
William Shatner got plenty of laughs for taking quotes from Palin's farewell speech and delivering them in an ultra-dramatic beat-poetry-style routine on Conan's show earlier this year. Funnier yet was when Shatner performed the same gag with quotes from now-Palin nemesis, Levi Johnston.
Last night, it was the same deal but Shatner read excerpts from Palin's best-selling book, "Going Rogue."
Of course, the best way to do this is to find the most ridiculous excerpts. Out of context -- who cares? The idea is to make people laugh. Bring in some musical accompaniments for extra drama -- in this case bongo drums, bass, and flute -- and you're set.
The delivery is key. Serious. Dramatic. Life or death.
Shatner: Master thespian
It all started with Conan. "Some of the revelations in Sarah Palin's new book are really surprising. I think they need to be presented appropriately," he deadpanned before introducing Shatner, whom he introduced as an Emmy award winning "master thespian."
Shatner went right to work, reading such pivotal quotes as:
"One year while stalking sheep, I disappeared..."
"I always remind people from outside our state that there's plenty of room for all of Alaska's animals [pause for effect] -- right next to the mashed potatoes."
"Kid Rock is very pro-America. Also has common sense ideas."
Shatner ended every quote with a forlorn and pained expression signaling the gravitas of what he just read -- which in turn delighted the audience.
But what really turned on the crowd was when Palin walked out unannounced on stage. A full 30 seconds of applause elapsed before Palin could announce she was turning the tables.
"I think it's only appropriate that I read a few choice excerpts from Mr. Shatner's autobiography," she said. Shatner played along, gulping uncomfortably.
Some of Palin's lines included:
"What made TJ Hooker's character so interesting is he remembered the old rule of law enforcement. Of course I understand he robbed that bank because you have no self-esteem -- BOOM, taste my nightstick!"
"My whole being resonated with an incredible feeling that I was going to go visit with an elephant on a starlit, moonless night in Africa and I was going to visit that elephant in my underwear."
"As I finished Mr. Tambourine Man I glanced over at Johnny Carson who had a look of astonishment on his face vaguely similar to look on Spock's face when his brain was missing."
Shatner appeared pained. The crowd loved it. In the end, Palin and Shatner walked off the stage together, arm-in-arm, while the crowd sounded their approval.
"Good to finally see those two together," O'Brien joked.
"I started to think they were the same person," sidekick Andy Richter responded.