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Bin Laden targeted by TV's late-night humorists

The Associated Press, Monday, May 2, 2011, 10:51pm (PDT)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Osama bin Laden's death not only dominated the news Monday, but also fueled a wealth of comic relief, punch lines and unapologetic crowing from TV's late-night hosts.

"You seem like you're in a good mood," said CBS' David Letterman, greeting his "Late Show" audience with a grin. "You folks enjoy the Osama bin Laden season finale?"

Over on NBC, "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno was all smiles, too, as he declared, "It looks like President Obama has a new campaign slogan: 'Yes I Did.'"

"Great news," said Conan O'Brien on his TBS talk show. "The world's most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, is dead. Which means now the official No. 1 threat to America is the KFC Double Down."

"It was the first Twitter death rumor ever that turned out to be true," cracked Jimmy Kimmel on ABC.

"Bin Laden is dead!" said "Late Night" host Jimmy Fallon on NBC — "just like the Republicans' chances in 2012."

And on CBS' "Late Late Show," host Craig Ferguson gave extra oomph to his trademark pronouncement, "It's a great day for America, everybody!"

"I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl who just shot bin Laden in the eye," glowed Stephen Colbert on "The Colbert Report," adding, "I hope I am never again this happy over someone's death."

Colbert's fellow Comedy Central host, Jon Stewart, was no less effusive on "The Daily Show."

"I suppose," he allowed, "I should be expressing some ambivalence about the targeted killing of another human being. And yet — uhhhh, no!"

Instead, Stewart said, he wanted details. Like, what was the look on bin Laden's face when he realized "the helicopters overhead were not giving traffic and weather updates?"

Letterman's Top Ten, "fresh from the State Department," purported to list bin Laden's final words, which might have been "I'm not sure I want to live in a world where 'Fast Five' is the No. 1 movie," or maybe, "I need a house full of Navy SEALs like I need a hole in the head."

The jokes — and there were many — were focused on a handful of basic themes. Like the courageous Navy SEALs who took bin Laden out.

According to O'Brien, "When he heard about it, former President Bush was furious and said, 'Wait a minute — I could have used seals?!'"

"How about those Navy SEALs?" marveled Letterman. "They jump out of a helicopter and they break into the compound, and they fire a warning shot into his head."

"Well, the good news is," he added, invoking another prevalent theme, "bin Laden lived to see the royal wedding."

"Between the death of bin Laden and the marriage of Kate Middleton and Prince William," Kimmel said, "it's an exciting time to be in the commemorative plate business."

But what will happen to bin Laden in the next life?

Fallon disclosed that the 72 virgins supposedly awaiting the al-Qaida leader in paradise had turned out to be "just some dudes watching 'Game of Thrones' on HBO."

Letterman had another theory: Owing to a screwup in the paperwork, they were 72 vegans.

The comics took glee in lampooning Donald Trump, who, as an undeclared GOP candidate for the presidency, has noisily questioned both Obama's citizenship and college scholarship.

On NBC, first word of bin Laden's death pre-empted the final few minutes of Sunday's East Coast airing of the Trump-hosted reality show, "Celebrity Apprentice."

"This," said O'Brien, "begs the question: How do we kill bin Laden again NEXT Sunday?"

Kimmel observed that, "On the same night Obama was ordering the Navy to kill bin laden, his potential opponent in 2012, Donald Trump, was busy firing Playmate of the Month Hope Dworaczyk."

And on "Late Night," Fallon impersonated Trump in a sketch, stating that Obama "is so scared of me and so desperate for attention that he felt the need to hunt down and kill bin Laden right in the middle of my show."

Online, much of the comedy reaction revolved around positioning Obama as an action hero. Making the rounds was a picture of a determined Obama and the label: "Everyone chill ... out, I GOT THIS!"

Another photo showed a smiling Obama in sunglasses and suit with the caption: "Sorry it took so long to get you a copy of my birth certificate. I was too busy killing Osama bin Laden."

One of the most popular topics on Twitter through much of Monday was Jack Bauer, the fictional government agent of "24." The Jack Bauer messages typically reflected a pride in the Navy SEALs who carried out the mission.

Steve Martin took his own, pointedly ironic approach to the startling events: "Slow news day," he tweeted.

But one of the most widespread quotations was from a much older comic legend: "I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure." That one was courtesy of Mark Twain.

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AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle in New York contributed to this report.

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