Thursday, July 29, 2004

Gov. leaves comedy to pros

Fletcher just joking with Leno

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Gov. Ernie Fletcher said Wednesday that swapping gags with late-night television host Jay Leno gave him a chance to "punch back" at Kentucky's backwoods image.

Fletcher said he enjoyed his appearance Tuesday night on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, but added he was glad to be back "doing my job and leaving the standup comedy to professionals."

The Republican governor defended the commonwealth's honor after Leno poked fun at the state's plans for a new image-building catchphrase. Leno offered "Kentucky: Got Teeth?" as a potential marketing slogan.

Fletcher wasn't pleased and fired off a terse letter, prompting the invitation to appear on the show.

Fletcher came out wielding a Louisville Slugger bat that he presented to Leno. Standing next to Leno on stage, the first-term governor said he wanted to "set a few things straight."

Fletcher tried to stay stone faced when Leno offered several new marketing slogans for Kentucky during the show. Among them:

• "Kentucky: As seen on TV, mostly on Jerry Springer and Cops."

• "Kentucky: The first state to recognize same-sibling marriage."

• "When you don't want to deal with traffic, half our cars are up on blocks."

Fletcher said Wednesday he knew Leno would poke more fun at Kentucky.

"But it gave us an opportunity to be out there and to kind of punch back, and that's what we tried to do," the governor said.

Fletcher got in a few licks of his own, aimed at Los Angeles.

•  "L.A.: Come for the silicone, stay for the botox."

•  "L.A.: Married, divorced, remarried, all in about an hour."

His last slogan - "In Kentucky, we pay higher stud fees" - a reference to the state's status as a horse-breeding capital.

Once, Leno cut in on Fletcher's shtick and asked the governor if his son Jethro had written the slogans, an apparent reference to the Beverly Hillbillies. For the record, Fletcher's son is named Ben.

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