So much for an al Qaeda kook's wish to "paralyze" David Letterman's tongue.
The feisty, gap-toothed CBS comic unleashed a 13-joke monologue last night and a Top Ten list devoted entirely to the goon who had called for his death.
"We have great audiences night in and night out, but tonight especially, it means a lot to me," Letterman joked on his first night back from a two-week summer vacation. "Tonight, you people are more, to me, honestly, more than an audience -- you're more like a human shield."
Other riffs on the death threat included:
"I'm so sorry, I'm a little late coming out. Backstage I was talking to the guy from CBS. We were going through the CBS life-insurance policy to see if I was covered for jihad."
* "You're not going to believe what happened. A guy, a radical extremist, threatened to cut my tongue out. I wish I had a nickel for every time a guy has threatened that. I think the first time was during the Academy Awards."
* "I have a fatwa on me. And they say the guy that issued the fatwa is an Internet jihadist. Internet jihadist! And I said, 'Well, heck, who says Obama isn't creating jobs?' "
* "And so now, State Department authorities are looking into this. They're not taking this lightly. They're looking into it. They're questioning, they're interrogating, there's an electronic trail -- but everybody knows it's Leno."
Throughout the show, Letterman goofed on the would-be terrorist, begging guests and staffers not to declare a "fatwa" on him for bad jokes or silly screw-ups.