Actually, the former longtime Republican - and ultimately Democratic - U.S. senator from Pennsylvania showed he has a knack for comedy last night at the Helium Comedy Club, on Sansom Street near 20th.

Welcomed by a big round of applause, Specter, 81, took a crack at big-name politicians including Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and even embattled former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.

Here's a sampling from his repertoire:

* "Will Rogers said that when Congress tells a joke it becomes law and whenever Congress passes a law it turns out to be a joke."

* "I've been in comedy now for 30 years. The only difference is, it's not stand-up; we all have comfortable chairs. It cost about $27 million to win the seat in the U.S. Senate, so when you win one you like to sit down. Sit-down comedy."

* "I called Clinton up on his 65th birthday and I said, 'Bill, congratulations on being 65. How do you feel?' He said, 'I feel like a teenager. The problem is, I can't find one.' "

* On New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: "In the last hurricane, Christie's seashore house was totally demolished. He didn't mind too much that the house was destroyed, but he was really very upset that it destroyed his entire library - both books. And he wasn't finished coloring them."

* On Gingrich: Once, the two were on a train with a minister, when a waitress asked what they wanted to drink. "The minister said, 'I'm a man of the cloth and drinking is a sin. I would commit adultery first.' . . . Gingrich jumped up and said, 'Wait, wait, I didn't know that was one of the choices.' "

* On Cain: "What people don't know is that Cain had a longstanding problem since he was an adolescent: No matter how hard his teachers tried, they couldn't persuade Herman Cain that harass was one word."

After his 10-minute act, Specter told reporters that comedy came easily to him.

"Well, I've been in the Senate for 30 years, so I'm used to comedy," said Specter, now a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

"I like humor. I think humor is elevating. It's a good break and I think it's important for people who have serious jobs, people in public life like senators, to have a lighter touch and try to maintain perspective."