By Joe Biesk
The Associated Press
FRANKFORT - Calling it an opportunity to improve the state's image, Gov. Ernie Fletcher will appear today on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, who earlier this month suggested a motto for the state could be "Kentucky: Got Teeth?"
Fletcher was previously considering an offer to appear on the Late, Late Show with Craig Kilborn, on CBS. The governor settled on Leno partly because the NBC show has a larger audience and an earlier time slot, said Daniel Groves, Fletcher's chief of staff.
"We're very excited about it," Groves said. "I think this will be an excellent opportunity for the governor to show that he has a great sense of humor, but also talk about the great things in Kentucky."
Fletcher is not going to be a sit-down guest, Groves said. A spokesman for Leno's show in California confirmed that and said Fletcher would be part of a comedy skit.
Talks between the Fletcher administration and the Leno show started in mid-July after Kentucky's branding efforts became a punch line to one of the comedian's jokes, Groves said. The administration contacted the show after that episode, he said.
Meanwhile, the governor considered an appearance on the Kilborn show after the comedian also joked about the state's efforts to create a new image.
"We had to make a very difficult decision between them," Groves said.
Film star and Kentucky native Ashley Judd is also scheduled to be on the NBC program today.
"This is an opportunity to reach a large audience to let them know about what Kentucky's doing to promote our great state," Fletcher said Monday. "Hopefully, with Jay Leno's humor we can start the effort to improve Kentucky's image."
In a letter from Fletcher to Leno dated July 20, the governor touted some of Kentucky's assets such as the Kentucky Derby and the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. The governor also invited Leno to be his guest at the 2005 Derby.
"Your humor showed to the nation the stereotypes we in Kentucky are working to eliminate," Fletcher wrote in the letter.
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