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Glenn Trades Jokes With Jay Leno

November 4, 1998

SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) _ John Glenn took a break from geriatric experiments and Mission Control on Wednesday, checking in with ``The Tonight Show with Jay Leno″ for a few jokes about Metamucil and those ``young punks″ flying with him.

In a welcome departure from the normally staid interviews conducted from the space shuttle Discovery, Glenn traded a few good-natured barbs with the late-night comedian. The 77-year-old senator said this time in orbit, he’s got more food choices _ he can mix his Tang with Geritol or Metamucil.

The 10-minute conversation was to be broadcast Wednesday night. While a video transmission will let viewers see Glenn, the Democratic senator could only hear Leno.

``Have you ever threatened to turn the space shuttle around and go home, Senator Glenn, if these kids don’t behave themselves?″ Leno asked, calling the other six astronauts ``young punks.″

Glenn said there hadn’t been any discipline problems aboard Discovery and besides, ``I’m just a working stiff.″

Leno: ``Is there anybody in Washington you’d like to take into space and just leave there?″ No, Glenn said, but a few senators told him before he rocketed away that once he was in orbit, ``they wouldn’t provide the money to bring me back.″

NASA gave Leno one of the coveted q-and-a spots since he had asked to chat with astronauts before in space.

Despite the jokes, Leno was clearly in awe of Glenn, who was the first American to orbit the Earth back in 1962, and is now the oldest.

``This is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me,″ Leno said. ``This will help me get the final chapter of my sixth-grade book report on Senator Glenn. I had to write a paper on Friendship 7 in the sixth grade, and I can finally turn it in now.″

Leno ended up on the receiving end when he asked the astronauts what they could see down on Earth. Rivers, big airports and that’s not all, said Glenn’s commander, Curtis Brown Jr.

``Every time we fly by California, we see your chin,″ Brown said. ``Really? Wow!″ the comedian said, laughing.

After they signed off, Leno was still laughing.

``I got a shot from space that really made me laugh. Hey. HEY. H-E-E-Y!″ he said.

Glenn also took time out from his experiments to chat with Walter Cronkite, celebrating his 82nd birthday on Wednesday, and NASA’s boss, Daniel Goldin.

``You caused trouble with my mother,″ Goldin said. ``Last night, my 86-year-old mother called me up and she wanted to know when she was going into space. And if you think you’re tenacious, I don’t know how I’m going to tell her no.″

``Good for her,″ Glenn said. ``I’m glad she has that kind of attitude. I think too many people, when they get old, think they have to live by the calendar.″

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