The post-Labor Day push to make Hillary Clinton relatable—an urgent priority of her aides, consultants, and strategists, according to The New York Times—got a lovely boost Wednesday on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Over the course of this wacky yet still young presidential campaign, we’ve seen Defensive Hillary, Elusive Hillary, Exasperated Hillary, High-Handed Hillary, Non-Responsive Hillary and, of course, Combative Hillary.
But during her first-ever appearance with Fallon on Tonight, the former first lady, senator, and secretary of state unveiled Loosey-Goosey Hillary.
The beleaguered Democratic frontrunner—who in recent months has watched her poll numbers slide and voter perceptions of her trustworthiness erode amid the low-grade fever of the State Department email scandal—looked genuinely ecstatic to be a guest on NBC’s top-rated late-night franchise.
And she arrived in a hot-pink sweater, black slacks, and plenty of baubles and bangles, with her game-face on, spreading her arms wide for a hug and kiss from Fallon and waving to the excited studio audience.
Clinton came to play. She not only joined Fallon in a comedy sketch in which the latter portrayed Donald Trump doing a mock interview of her, but she also shared her patented Trump impression with the nation, joked about a White House occupied by the reality television mogul (and also made light of her email issues), recounted her experience of taking a selfie with Kim Kardashian, and invited Fallon to touch and feel her processed blond helmet of campaign-ready hair.
And she frequently burst into laughter during some fast-break banter with the talk show host.
She laughed and laughed.
And then, after a commercial, in her second segment on the show, she listened empathetically as Fallon described the emotional wrench of leaving his young daughter at her first day of pre-school.
And she told a warm anecdote about her habit of strolling incognito outside the White House as first lady—sporting a baseball cap and sunglasses to avoid being recognized—and accommodating a family of tourists who handed her their camera and asked her to please snap their photo in front of the Executive Mansion.
What a joyful, charming, witty, caring, human president of the United States she’d make. After all, the headline on the Times story was: “Hillary Clinton to Show More Humor and Heart, Aides Say.”
Clinton’s only conspicuous misstep—and a potentially endearing one at that—was when she referred to Fallon’s house band, The Roots, as just plain “Roots.”
“I’ve got to thank Roots!” she crowed on taking her seat. “I love Roots!”
Of course, maybe Clinton was simply anticipating the moment (the one that will probably be shown on a tape loop all day Thursday on cable news programs) in which Fallon would lay hands on her expensively done coiffure.
“Have you ever been able to touch his hair?” Clinton asked the late-night comedian about last week’s guest, Republican frontrunner Trump—a huge topic of conversation for Clinton even though he was elsewhere, debating his rival candidates at the Reagan Library. “Have you ever really touched it?”
No, Fallon admitted. “It feels like a hologram when he’s here.”
“You want to touch mine?” Clinton persisted.
“Of course!” Fallon agreed, and then, when the candidate tilted her head toward him, not only touched it, but dug his hand into it, grabbed a hank of it, and gently pulled.
“It’s real! It’s real!” he announced.
“You can’t say the same thing about the color,” Clinton remarked.
“And it smells great!” Fallon gushed.
When Fallon asked about the email flap—a subject he addressed in the monologue, joking that Clinton’s security detail had spent the day at 30 Rock “sweeping all the hard drives”—she gave her well-rehearsed answers, but more enthusiastically than ever.
“Can I just talk about the email scandal?” Fallon asked.
“SURE!!!” Clinton fairly shouted, flashing a goofy grin to indicate good-natured sarcasm.
Then, while delivering her much-disputed interpretations of what was and was not classified top-secret on her private server, she diverted the discussion, with the cooperation of her interlocutor, into talk about a very important email concerning gefilte fish.
The studio audience, largely silent, seemed a tad nonplussed by the exchange.
Things got more lively when Fallon asked Clinton if she believed she was tough enough to be president.
“Yes, I think so,” she responded.
Her heartiest laugh, punctuated by a slapping-together of hands, came when Fallon told her: “You’re a tough mother!”—suggesting a four-syllable word that can’t be uttered on network television.
“I mean that in the best way,” Fallon quickly added.
“I wouldn’t mess with you. You’re like Rhonda Rousey shopping at Anne Taylor Loft,” he said, referring to the fearsome butt-kicking martial artist and a comparatively genteel clothing store.
“You’ve got to be a lot different things to be a good president,” Clinton said, adding that her foreign policy would stress the “sensible, smart way, not bullying, but with a little more diplomacy.”
Before Clinton’s interview, she showed off her not inconsiderable performance skills in some scripted shtick, by pretending to take a phone call from Fallon/Trump in split screen (when the camera pulled back, they were actually sitting side by side) and fielding his questions and unsolicited advice.
Trump: “How are you, Hillary? I haven’t seen you since my last wedding.”
Clinton: “Well, I’m sure I’ll see you at the next one.”
Trump: “Now look, I know you’re about to go out for your interview with Jimmy Fallon. But he’s a total lightweight, so I’m gonna do him a favor, and interview you instead.”
Clinton: “Great. You know how much I love doing interviews!”
After “Trump” asked what she’d do to help women, and Clinton responded with long list of programs, she asked him: “I’m curious, Donald, what is your stance on women’s issues?”
Trump: “Look, I know a lot of women, and they all have issues.”
When she sounded several of her campaign themes, “Trump” chimed in: “See, you sound like a robot. ‘Bleep, blop, blorp, does not compute.’
“You wanna win, here’s what you gotta do. First: Yell. I yell all the time... Next: Pick three things everyone loves, and say you hate them. Watch: Puppies? Stupid. Rainbows? Total losers. Fall foliage? Tree puberty? Are you writing this down?”
Clinton: “Hold on, lemme just grab my pen.”
At which she grabbed and sipped from what looked like a huge tumbler of white wine, but may have been apple juice. My money’s on real alcohol.
At the end of the sketch both Clinton and Fallon kept their seats and did some vigorous chair-dancing.
Apparently Clinton’s sense of merriment was infectious. During an interview segment with actress Dakota Johnson, there to plug the movie Black Mass, Fallon got distracted—indeed, visibly annoyed—by loud music thumping through the walls of Studio 6-B.
“It’s coming from Hillary’s dressing room,” Johnson quipped.