- - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Letterman mines threat for monologue laughs

Even a fatwa is grist for comedy when you’re David Letterman.

Back from two weeks’ vacation and making his first TV appearance since a threat against his life was posted on a jihadist website, the “Late Show” host played it all for laughs during Monday’s monologue.

According to the Associated Press, Mr. Letterman began by thanking his studio audience for being there.

“Tonight,” he said, “you people are more, to me, honestly, than an audience — you’re more like a human shield.”

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He then apologized for having been tardy coming onstage.

“Backstage, I was talking to the guy from CBS,” he explained. “We were going through the CBS life insurance policy to see if I was covered for jihad.”

Until Mr. Letterman delivered his jokes, his situation seemed to be no laughing matter.

Last week, a frequent contributor to a jihadist website posted the threat against Mr. Letterman. He urged Muslim followers to “cut the tongue” of the late-night host because of a joke and gesture that the comic had made about al Qaeda leaders on a show that aired in June.

“A guy, a radical extremist, threatened to cut my tongue out,” Mr. Letterman marveled during Monday’s monologue. Then, referring to his disastrous turn hosting the Oscars in 1995, he added: “I wish I had a nickel for every time a guy has threatened [that]. I think the first time was during the Academy Awards.”

“And so now,” he continued, “State Department authorities are looking into this.” But they could save themselves some trouble, he suggested: “Everybody knows it’s [Jay] Leno.”

Along with his monologue, Mr. Letterman mined the situation for his Top Ten list: “Top Ten Thoughts That Went Through My Mind After Hearing About the Threat.”

Among them:

• “Why is the staff in such a good mood?”

• “How can someone be so angry at a time when Kim Kardashian is so happy?”

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