LOS ANGELES - Political debates inform voters - and provide material for late-night TV show hosts.
"Tonight's presidential debate took place in Nashville, Tenn. Which is perfect, because the economy right now is like a bad country music song: `I lost my girl, I lost the house, the dog died,'" Jay Leno said on NBC's "Tonight Show."
Although "Tonight" and other shows were taped before Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama met Tuesday night - Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" labeled it a "space-time continuum problem" - the jokes wouldn't be stopped.
"Tonight's presidential debate was a town hall forum," said Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." "See, that allows the candidates to go around the media filter and lets regular Americans ask the questions that the candidates can ignore to deliver their stump speeches."
Obama took one for the "Tonight" show.
"It's a town hall format, which is John McCain's favorite way to speak to crowds. As opposed to Barack Obama's favorite way, a sermon on a mount," Leno quipped.
McCain's age proved a subject that never gets old.
"The second presidential debate is tonight, and beforehand John McCain said that the `gloves are coming off.' Then McCain said, `But don't worry, the diaper is staying on,'" quipped Conan O'Brien on NBC's "Late Night."
With the debate format, "the candidates can walk around freely," noted Craig Ferguson on CBS' "The Late Late Show." "McCain prepared by putting new tennis balls on his walker."
Meanwhile, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, was holding fast as a late-night mainstay.
"In Boca Raton, Fla., yesterday, a woman who looked like Sarah Palin caused a near-riot when she walked into a diner for breakfast," Leno said. "After a minute or two, people finally realized it wasn't her when she started answering questions."
"Is there anything this woman can't make sound folksy?" Stewart said of Palin. "`And let's not forget about that doggone genocide in Rwanda!'"
"In a recent speech, Sarah Palin referred to Afghanistan as `our neighboring country.' Then she promised to find Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Toronto," O'Brien said.
And Palin starred atop CBS "Late Show" host David Letterman's list of Top 10 Signs You Are Watching a Bad Debate: "It's 90 minutes of folksy phrases and winking."
The economy and the current president didn't escape skewering.
"The bad news: The Dow dropped 500 points today. The good news: I didn't know there were 500 left," said Colbert.
"President Bush's response to the economic crisis was to meet with small business owners at a soda shop in San Antonio, Texas, this week. The bad news: The small business owners are now General Motors, General Electric, Century 21," offered Leno.
O'Brien's take: "President Bush gave a speech today about the economy and he said that he believes that `anyone who makes bad decisions should fail.' Then Bush looked around the room and said, `Hey, why did it get so quiet in here?'"