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John McCain tries his hand at satire on "Saturday Night Live"

May 17, 2008 | 11:14 pm

Starring in two short skits on the season finale of "Saturday Night Live," John McCain reeled off a series of one-liners that generally earned little more than mild chuckles.

But it's a good bet he and his staff could not be more pleased with the exposure he got -- especially the chance to use humor to try to defuse one of the big questions shadowing his presidential candidacy. And the audience's wild reaction.

That issue would be his age -- if he wins in November, at 72 he would be the oldest person ever to begin a first term in the White House. And McCain, well known for his vigor, played off that inescapable fact at the very start of a mock address to the nation he delivered about 30 minutes into the show.

What voters should be looking for in a president, he intoned, is someone who is "very, very, very old."

Later in the bit, the presumptive Republican nominee referred to his "great, great, great grandchildren," the youngest of whom, he added, are "nearing retirement." And, in his best deadpan, he asserted he has the "oldness" necessary to be an effective chief executive.

Polls have shown a larger percentage of voters say age -- rather than race or gender -- could cause them to turn against a candidate. So confronting the matter head on, and poking fun at it, may well be in McCain's best interests.

In the same skit, he caricatured ....

... his staunch opposition to Capitol Hill's penchant for pork barrel spending. Among the multimillion-dollar projects he had fought against, he said with a straight face, was a device "to jam gaydar."

Insisting he did not know whether such a machine was anti-gay or pro-gay, he called it a project "best left to state and local government."

He got his chance to tweak Democrats -- and their prolonged presidential fight -- a few minutes later during SNL's "Weekend Update" faux news segment. Again talking directly to the camera rather than interacting with cast members, he urged the opposing party to take "every possible second" before settling on a nominee.

In fact, he opined, it would be "crazy exciting" for Democrats to complete their late-August convention in Denver still undecided on a standard-bearer.

McCain stayed on the NBC set to join the en masse onstage gathering at the show's end. There, he exchanged a prolonged handshake with the evening's musical guest -- Usher, one of the recently named co-chairs of Barack Obama's national voter registration drive.

Unknown if the two exchanged any political gossip.

-- Don Frederick

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