Hillary Humor

On “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on Thursday, Hillary Clinton wasted no time in trying to diffuse what has been one of the most embarrassing moments of her campaign.

“It is so great to be here, I was so worried I wasn’t going to make it. I was pinned down by sniper fire,” she said, to audience laughs.

She added, a bit more seriously, “This has been such a mismatch of words and action. Obviously I’ve been so privileged to represent our country in more than 80 other countries, lots of war zones. I wrote about it in my book and obviously had a lapse. But here I am, safe and sound.”

She walked onstage to the “Rocky” theme, a reference to her comparison of herself to the underdog movie heavyweight, and perhaps underscoring the extent to which her campaign has capitalized on pop culture and the exposure it brings. Clinton has appeared in everything from a “Saturday Night Live” skit to  interviews with “Access Hollywood” and “Entertainment Tonight” to an Us magazine photo spread.

On Thursday alone, in addition to “The Tonight Show,” she taped “The Ellen Show,” set to air on Monday, as well as a segment of “American Idol.”

But she and other candidates also have gone on late-night TV to use humor to try to get past campaign gaffes. If they can laugh it off, it takes away some of the sting.

Her “Tonight Show” appearance featured a taped segment that riffed on her “3 a.m.” phone ads, where she picks up the phone and hears Leno begging her to come on the show. “We’ve got to get caller I.D.,” she says.

Leno asked her about policy positions, as well as the Michigan and Florida situation, and he also brought up her husbands outbursts on the campaign trail.

“When you’re supporting someone you love, you really do take it very much to heart,” she said. “I said ‘OK, honey, that’s all right, we don’t have to go get excited about it.’ He’s doing a great job for me but he does get a little carried away sometimes.”

Clinton admitted that her “stomach is in knots” most days worrying about what daughter Chelsea might experience on the campaign trail. Among other things, she’s fielded town hall questions asking her about the Monica Lewinsky scandal, although Leno did not bring that up.

Leno also asked about Chelsea’s comment that her mother would be a better president than her father.

“She’s such a smart young woman,” Clinton deadpanned.

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