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Same old story: McCain's age his overriding issue on late night monologues

The presidential candidate favored in most NCIS households recently took it upon himself to embrace the standard-issue jokes coming at him on every late night comedy show.

"What should we be looking for in our next president?" he asked America on the season finale of Saturday Night Live. "Certainly somebody who is very, very, very old." He also touted himself as having "the oldness it takes to protect America."

Yeah, McCain's of a certain age, which makes him an easy lay. Broadcast networks abhor nothing more than a program that skews too old and misses the target that most advertisers greatly prefer -- 18-to-49-year-olds. Ageism in the pursuit of profits has never been a crime on the so-called public airwaves. The presidential campaign first became fair game back in 1996, when future Viagra spokesman Bob Dole headed the Republican ticket.

"Bob Dole is calling himself an optimist," David Letterman joked at the time. "I understand this because a lot of people would look at a glass as half empty. Bob Dole looks at the glass and says, 'What a great place to put my teeth.' "

Letterman, oldest of the late-nighters at 61, increasingly knows what it's like to be deemed irrelevant or antiquated by viewers half his age. But jokes about the elderly aren't just a young man's game -- and Letterman still plies this trade more than most.

Just the other night he noted that McCain has been auditioning possible running mates. "And they're visiting at his home in Arizona, which I believe is called the Lazy Artery. Wait, I believe it's a ranch. I think it's the Double Hernia, or maybe it's called the Rancho Prostateo."

Conan O'Brien has joked about McCain's Secret Service name being "Enlarged Prostate." And in Jay Leno's view, "John McCain says he's been tested, re-tested and tested again. And that's just his prostate."

Leno also says that McCain's been "crisscrossing the United States campaigning. Or, as they're calling it, 'Antiques Roadshow.' "

Jimmy Kimmel notes that McCain would boycott the Olympic ceremonies this summer if he were president. "Not because of China's human rights record, though, but because the ceremonies start at 8:00 and he goes to bed at 6:45."

And Bill Maher wasn't overly impressed when Mike Huckabee finally dropped out and endorsed McCain. "Oh great," he said, "you've got one guy who doesn't believe in evolution, and another guy who remembers it."

For a brief time Ralph Nader picked up the slack. After all, at age 74, he's even older than McCain. "The good news, if Ralph gets sick, his younger brother, Raul Nader will take over," Leno cracked.

But McCain quickly re-established himself as the go-to guy for easily composed jokes about presidential candidates who have to get up and go a lot.

"He's an older gentleman. That's the idea here," O'Brien said earlier this year after noting that McCain is looking for a running mate, plus his reading glasses and car keys. "You'll be hearing more of those in the next nine months, because that's our take. Until he gets a whore."

McCain's SNL bit, posted below, showed his ability to go with the flow -- in a manner of speaking. Parrying and parodying a steady stream of jokes -- while maintaining the same in the bathroom -- is of utmost importance in trying times like these.

Otherwise you risk letting your opponent -- in this case, Letterman -- define you as "the guy at the hardware story who makes the keys, the guy who can't stop talking about how well his tomatoes are doing, the guy who goes into town for turpentine . . ."