A prominent politician, especially one known for a certain righteousness, is alleged to be a customer of high-priced call girls. For comics, that's a hanging curveball over the plate.
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer became the butt of jokes faster than, well, faster than it would take a john to ride Amtrak from New York to Washington.
"I sat next to the guy three times and I didn't pick up on any of this," said Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, "and I usually have excellent whore-dar."
"It's just mind-blowing that he spent $4,300 on a hooker," said New York comic Lisa Landry. "It just shows how high the cost of living is in New York. That same hooker would cost $50 in Newark."
"Let me ask you a question," said David Letterman. "Do you think it's too soon to be hitting on Mrs. Eliot Spitzer?"
Even amateurs couldn't resist, with soul music Kenny Gamble talking about the 1970s hit he wrote about an adulterous affair, "Me and Mrs. Jones," while he was accepting induction Monday into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"There's a little 'Me and Mrs. Jones' going on here in New York," Gamble told an audience at New York's Waldorf-Astoria.
The development Monday afternoon appeared to agonize Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." He said his staff spent a weekend preparing material and he didn't want to throw it all out for Spitzer jokes.
Jay Leno on NBC's "Tonight" show quickly rattled off four jokes. Yet unlike most news stories, he felt compelled to explain it to an audience for whom the information was so fresh they might not have heard it before coming to his show.
Spitzer's admission that he was involved in a prostitution ring "means that Hillary Clinton is now only the second-angriest wife in the state of New York," Leno said.
It's ready-made topical humor for the late-night hosts, said Vince Averill, a stand-up comic who just taped an episode of Comedy Central's "Live at Gotham." But he, like Landry, wondered whether the story will last long enough for comics to make it a big part of their act or if Spitzer is known enough throughout the country.
"He wasn't such a popular figure that people are going to want to keep talking about this," said Landry, a frequent performer at New York's Comic Strip Live.
Averill said he hadn't written a joke on the topic. When you think about it, it's almost too easy, he said, and he wasn't interested in going for the cheap laugh.
"I'm sure there's going to be no shortage of people trying to do something with it," he said.
Conan O'Brien on NBC's "Late Night" tried, noting that Spitzer was quoted as saying he had violated his obligation to his family and his sense of right and wrong. "Spitzer also admitted violating someone named Amber," he said.
Another New York-based show, Letterman's "Late Show" on CBS, went straight for the jugular.
"You've got to say one thing about this," he said. "He's caught soliciting a hooker, but thank God, on the bright side, it did not involve an airport's men's room."
And his writers came up with a top-10 list of "Eliot Spitzer excuses."
No. 1: "I thought Bill Clinton legalized this years ago."
By David Bauder