It was the first time a sitting president has appeared on a late-night comedy show, the perils of which were illustrated when Obama made an off-hand joke about his bowling prowess.
Leno asked Obama whether the White House bowling alley had been "burned and closed down" in light of Obama's gutter ball disaster on the campaign trail last year.
"No, no. I have been practicing...I bowled a 129," Obama said, adding, "It's like -- it was like Special Olympics, or something." (Watch video clip)
This is why comedy should be left to the professionals. The audience laughed, but the White House quickly issued an apology, saying the president intended no offense to the Special Olympics. Obama later even called the chairman of the Special Olympics himself to apologize. (It was the second time Obama has had to pick up the phone to apologize for an off-hand joke. Late last year, he called Nancy Reagan to apologize after making a crack about her having held "séances" in the White House.)
Obama stuck to safer comedic targets during the rest of the interview. He drew the biggest laugh of the night after Leno asked if it was fair for him to be "judged so quickly" after less than two months in office. "I welcome the challenge," Obama replied. "In Washington, it's a little bit like 'American Idol,' but everybody is Simon Cowell."
More humorous highlights from Obama's appearance with Jay Leno:
On when daughters Malia and Sasha would get their pet dog: "This is Washington. That was a campaign promise," Obama said, drawing laughter from the audience. "No, no, no, no, no, I'm teasing. The dog will be there shortly."
On playing pickup basketball games under the watchful eyes of the Secret Service: "I will say that I don't think I get the hard fouls that I used to."
On flying on Marine one: "My daughters, they're just not as impressed. The first time we went on Marine One -- right, you've got the Marines in front and they're saluting you. And we go up and we're passing the Washington Monument, circling around on the way to Camp David -- and Sasha looks over and she says, 'Are those Starbursts?' (Laughter.) There's, like, the candy in the little canister. (Laughter.) That's – 'Can we have some?' (Laughter.) So they're splitting up the Starbursts and we're flying over the Lincoln Memorial. So they got a whole 'nother level of cool. (Laughter.)
Watch the video and read the full transcript.
Obama Late-Night Jokes
Funny Obama Quotes
Surviving the Obama Comedy Crisis
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