By now, paying to see Bob Hope might seem like paying to see the evening news. Think again.

This fella, you see, walks onto the stage of the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, and he wraps his left hand around the mike stand, and he's, oh, 77 or so, and the orchestra plays a little behind him, and he tells jokes.

There's no punchline. There are 50, maybe 60 punchlines in an hour with Bob Hope. And they're almost all as sharp as the comedy veteran's timing, which remains about the sharpest in the business.

Hope and his opening act, Suzanne Somers of television's "Three's Company," began a three-day engagement at the Center last night. Oscar Wilde remarked that a woman of advanced age begins to resemble a public building. Comedians at that age, he might have added, are about as funny. But I wanna tell you. That Hope kid can still hit them out. Even with a crowd that has heard Suzanne Somers' one-liners.

Somers, glittering in a tight slit balck dress, started the show with a question: "I guess you're all so curious what America's dumbest blonde will do on stage."

A few moments later, she snorted. Like her character, Chrissy.

She sort of sang and sort of danced and sort of joked with the audience. With the exception of one torchy song, her voice lost out to the orchestra's tambourine more than a voice should. As a close, she sang "America the Beautiful." Thank you, Suzanne.

The trouper of troupers came on after a 15-minute break. If you've ever wondered how many retakes he requires to produce one of those smoothe taped monologues, the answer is -- probably not many. He flew through scores of jokes about golfing with Gerald Ford ("It's fun to run down the fairways and have the trees run with you"), airport metal searches ("How would you like to fly from New York to L.A. without your zipper?") and everything else on the average American mind or in the average American newspaper. Wife Delores even sang nicely as Hope watched from beside the pianist.

"No, you're wonderful, you're wonderful," Hope told the almost full house.

So is he.