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Gore's humor wows crowd

The "stiff Al Gore" jokes are finished. Literally standing up for his hobbled boss, the vice president wowed Washington's elite, laughing at themselves at the annual Gridiron Club dinner.

Filling in for the president, who had to cancel Saturday after knee surgery, Gore poked some fun at Clinton's injury. He said that when he asked the president if he were looking forward to the dinner, Clinton responded: "Al, I'd rather fall down a flight of stairs."

"Ironic, isn't it," Gore deadpanned.

The vice president hastily stepped in to handle Clinton's appearance at the Gridiron Club, whose 60 members including Washington journalists lampoon the high and mighty.

Clinton made his apologies on video, saying: "Obviously I'm in no condition to do a stand-up routine. . . . I feel my pain."

Gore's impromptu performance was the hit of the evening, especially his footwork in dodging jokes about a recent news conference where he defended making fund-raising telephone calls from the White House. "I'm proud of that news conference, and as a matter of policy I promise never to do it again," Gore said _ basically quoting what he said about the calls.

Gore noted that the Democrats have had to return millions of dollars in campaign donations from questionable sources. From now on, he quipped, they'll require donors to enclose self-addressed stamped envelopes.

Gore also said Democrats may try a fund-raising letter from Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes spokesman Ed McMahon, telling contributors, "You may already be an ambassador."