Years ago, when I left politics, I decided to take up a hobby. Stand-up comedy. No kidding.
The only funny part of this story is that I used to think politics was tough business! Try living the life of a traveling comedian.
Believe it or not, I even made it to Las Vegas -- where, as the saying goes, what happens, stays. Let's hope so. Because I try to be taken seriously, I've filed that little episode in my life as "hobbies best forgotten."
Recently, however, I had the duty, job or honor -- whatever one might call it -- of serving as emcee for a gathering of media and political leaders. It was meant to be a night of poking fun, yet I felt certain when it ended that I had offended or hurt someone with my rather brutal sense of humor. It wouldn't be the first time.
Yes, from time to time on a television program or in my column, I've made comments that might have been taken the wrong way. In fact, I specifically recall having Bill Maher toss me an odd question about transgender illegal immigrants one time on his ABC-TV show "Politically Incorrect." My answer apparently didn't make much sense, nor was it funny. For once, Bill was merciful, or perhaps just befuddled, and didn't push the issue.
In reality, it's hard trying to be funny or spontaneous without the risk of someone getting mad.
Now comes the revelation that NBC's "Tonight Show" host, Jay Leno, actually calls, on occasion, persons who have been offended by one of his monologue jokes, and -- imagine, in this day and age -- apologizes. The story only confirms what I assumed for years: Leno is a first-rate comic, entertainer, interviewer and, most of all, human being.
If he has some hidden political agenda, I've never been able to discern it. If he has a massive ego, he hides it better than just about any other star. His show is always something we can look forward to, to help relieve the stress of politics and world events.
Leno responded to one viewer's complaint about a joke that compared Dick Cheney's notorious hunting accident to a shooting in 2003 outside the Los Angeles courthouse. In response to the agitated viewer, Leno didn't equivocate. Instead, he simply said he was sorry it came across as offensive.
That act speaks volumes about Jay Leno's good nature. It's a lesson that others in the public eye -- particularly political leaders -- should take to heart.