Letterman mines laughs from recent Web site death threatNEW YORK - 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 Web site, the “Late Show” host played it for laughs during Monday’s monologue.
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.”
Then he apologized for having been tardy coming out 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 Letterman delivered his jokes, his situation seemed no laughing matter.
Last week, a frequent contributor to a jihadist Web site posted the threat against Letterman. He urged Muslim followers to “cut the tongue” of the late-night host because of a joke and gesture the comic had made about Al Qaeda leaders on his show earlier this summer.
“A guy, a radical extremist, threatened to cut my tongue out,” Letterman marvelled during Monday’s monologue. Then, referring to his disastrous turn hosting the 1995 Oscarcast, 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 time: “Everybody knows it’s [Jay] Leno.”
One joke that may have helped spark the fatwa was one of several lampooning Al Qaeda in Letterman’s June 8 monologue. This was just days after the death of Al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan. Though Kashmiri was rumored to be a long-shot choice to succeed Osama bin Laden, he wouldn’t have worked out even had he lived, Letterman cracked, pointing to Kashmiri’s “rocky start” as a front-runner: “He botched up the story of Paul Revere.”
The real butt of that joke: Sarah Palin, potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, who in early June on her “One Nation” bus tour had claimed that Paul Revere’s famous ride was intended to warn British soldiers as well as his fellow colonists.
The FBI said last week that it was looking into the threat.