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The best late-night TV joke Wednesday might have been delivered by Sarah Palin.
"Do you know what the difference is between a hockey mom and a pit bull?" the Republican vice-presidential candidate asked during a speech that pushed well past prime time. "Lipstick."
Certainly that quip brought more raucous cheers than were mustered by any of the talk-show hosts, who were handcuffed because they taped their programs before Palin delivered her speech.
That meant that NBC's Jay Leno and CBS' David Letterman could only act as though the speech was a thing of the past.
"I gotta admit she looked very comfortable at the podium," Leno said, "because it's kind of like Alaska. When you look over the convention floor, there's nothing but white as far as the eye can see."
Letterman said, "Sarah Palin gave a tremendous speech at the convention tonight -- although some are claiming that it was her daughter's speech."
Only ABC's Jimmy Kimmel worked in wisecracks pegged to Wednesday's actual happenings:
• "They even brought along the high-school kid who knocked their daughter up. His name's Levi Johnston. That's gotta be a fun trip for him."
• "Lindsay Lohan on her blog today urged [Palin] to deliver some words and policy with strong impact like Joe Biden. Well, thank you, drug-addicted teenage star of 'Herbie Fully Loaded'!"
There were only a few japes about events as recent as Tuesday's speeches.
"Joe Lieberman spoke last night," Leno said, "a Democrat at the Republican Convention. That's like Bill Clinton speaking at a sexual-abstinence rally."
Letterman noted, "John McCain lasted five years in a prisoner-of-war camp in North Vietnam. Even he couldn't get through Lieberman's speech."
Otherwise, the shows focused on really old news -- Larry Craig's toilet was the nexus of a long "Daily Show" skit and a Letterman one-liner -- or old jokes. Letterman and NBC's Conan O'Brien, for example, had gags about Palin being a gun owner and thus "a firm believer in shotgun weddings."
Bristol Palin's pregnancy, in fact, remained fodder for many of the jibes.
"Sarah Palin ... is opposed to gay marriage," O'Brien said. "She says everyone knows marriage isn't for gay people; it's for pregnant teenagers."
And there were, as there seemingly ever have been and ever will be, sallies about McCain's age.
"This week McCain was endorsed by the gay group known as the Log Cabin Republicans," O'Brien joshed. "They endorsed him not because he supports gay rights, but because he was actually born in a log cabin."
"John McCain arrived in Minnesota last night," Leno cracked. "The last time McCain was in Minnesota, he was shooting buffaloes from a train, so it's been awhile."
It was left to Letterman to come up with perhaps the second-best line of the night, largely because it has the ring of truth:
"Is it just me or does Sarah Palin look like a model for LensCrafter?"
Bill Ward • 612-673-7643