NEW YORK—Republican Jeb Bush “slow jammed” the news, told about meeting his wife, offered a guacamole recipe and oddly compared his presidential father and brother during a “Tonight” show appearance.
One day after announcing his bid for the presidency, Bush entered the entertainment world on the nation’s most popular late-night talk show. Americans don’t expect their presidents to be song-and-dance entertainers, but they at least expect them to appear comfortable and quick-witted opposite television hosts.
He was featured Tuesday night on the show’s recurring “slow jam the news” skit with host Jimmy Fallon. The job required Bush to recite lines about his candidacy while Fallon, stylized as a ’70s soul man and backed by the Roots, offered a series of double entendres. Bush took the straight man role that was most often filled by NBC’s suspended anchorman, Brian Williams.
When “soul man” Fallon asked about immigration, Bush gave his answer in both English and Spanish.
“Whoa, hold the telefono,” Fallon said. “I know you just got back from Miami, but I didn’t realize I was interviewing Gov. Pitbull,” he said, referencing the Miami-born rapper.
Later, an interview with Bush was sandwiched in between appearances by comic Billy Crystal and rock singer Courtney Barnett.
Fallon brought up the time Bush’s mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, made a comment about having enough Bushes in the White House. Jeb recalled watching the interview.
“She did it without telling me,” he said. “Thanks, mom. She’s coming around, thankfully.”
Asked by Fallon about how he differentiates himself from his father and sibling George W. Bush, Jeb Bush said that former President George H.W. Bush “is the most perfect man I’ve ever met.”
“My brother, I would say, is a significantly better artist than I am,” he said.
Bush talked about meeting his wife when he was in Mexico helping to build homes. He knew little Spanish at the time and she didn’t know English, but “when you’re in love you can overcome these problems pretty quickly. There’s another language,” he said.
In a sense, the appearance was a meeting between two rookies. Bush is new to the national stage, and Fallon is getting ready for his first presidential campaign as a late-night comic in an election where the two most politically savvy late-night hosts, David Letterman and Jon Stewart, will be off the scene.
Fallon asked no tough questions and seemed to hold pretty tightly to a script, once impersonating Regis Philbin talking about Bush’s campaign signs. Bush is the first candidate of the 2016 cycle to appear on Fallon’s show.
The candidate smiled stiffly during a commercial break as Fallon read a series of promotions to insert in local NBC newscasts that air just before his show.
Fallon noted that “Tonight” had a lot of younger viewers, and wondered what type of message Bush would offer them.
“I think we need high, sustained economic growth so they can get jobs,” he replied.
Fallon wondered what his message would be to older voters.
“I think we need high, sustained economic growth,” he said. “To them, I would just say it louder.”