DC’s annual Funniest Celebrity Contest. Photograph by Elizabeth Preovolos.
We wouldn’t typically ask Washingtonians Lewis Black or Dave Chappelle to pass a law (although, looking at Al Franken and the current bunch of jokers in Congress, maybe we should), so perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect a contingent of DC journos and politicians to make us laugh. But Wednesday night at DC Improv, nine local personalities tried their hand at standup comedy at DC’s annual Funniest Celebrity Contest, with proceeds from the $200-a-head tickets going to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
On one hand, the contestants deserve respect for supporting a good cause and for having the guts to tell jokes in front of a bunch of journalists. On the other hand, we’re going to mercilessly judge these public figures, anyway. After all, stakes are high for successful amateur comedians: Last year’s winner, former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett, recently had a White House–inspired sitcom pilot picked up by NBC. (See our list of plot ideas for him here.)
This year, Daily Caller senior editor Jamie Weinstein wooed the judges—including chef Geoff Tracy, Washington Examiner Yeas & Nays columnist Nikki Schwab, and Baltimore Comedy Factory owner Matt Weber—to take home the DC’s-funniest-comedian-who-isn’t-actually-a-comedian award.
Weinstein had pretty good delivery and some extremely edgy material—he called Occupy Wall Street protesters “public poopers and rapists,” made the first and only Jerry Sandusky joke and a Marcus-Bachmann-is-gay joke, and said if he were a documentary maker, he’d go for really short ones like A Jew in Gaza and Occupy Pyongyang, North Korea.
The politician contestants—who included last year’s runner-up, Rep. Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington state (choice line: “pepper spray is essentially a food product like Rick Santorum is essentially a candidate for president”); Rep. Allen West, the Tea Partier from Florida; and Rep. Earl Blumenauer from Oregon—generally played things much safer.
Professional comedian Brian Parise, who won Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse’s top political comedian award, pretty much nailed it when he said the contestants were “almost as funny as watching C-SPAN.” But it wasn’t all bad: Here’s our take on what worked and what didn’t.
Best international flair: Rep. Allen West. West wasn’t necessarily the funniest comedian, but those in attendance looking for confirmation that the Tea Partier is a little off his rocker got it. He did a pretty terrible Jamaican accent and a surprisingly good Australian one, and said the Democrats in the Congressional Black Caucus call him “Uncle Tom” and “double-stuffed Oreo.”
Best self-deprecating humor: Rep. Earl Blumenauer. Blumenauer said he’s more funny-odd than funny-haha: “I’m the bow-tie-wearing, bike-riding congressman,” he said. His home city has something on DC, though: “Portland has 121 breweries. DC, with four, sucks,” he said.
Good sports: Auction bidders. The quick mid-performance auction was pretty awkward because of the lack of bids—Weinstein ended up buying a dinner with a Fox News correspondent for half the asking price, and it looks like Scott Brown’s going on a dinner date with Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter). But kudos to both participants for stepping up and supporting a good cause.
Least funny: Cheap partisan shots. Grover Norquist, the conservative lobbyist best known for his “taxpayer protection pledge,” played the role of punching bag for most of the night (Earl Blumenauer offered him an organic fruitcake from Portland), but shots at Obama and Rush Limbaugh were frequently the least funny of the night. Norquist stayed out of it, instead opting for “I just got married and now my wife won’t have sex with me” jokes, which was a surprisingly refreshing change from political humor, even if not all the jokes worked. Brian Murphy, a candidate in the Republican primary in the 2010 Maryland governor’s race, had a good line about making a “badmouth Grover drinking game.”
Also unfunny: Politicians who played it safe. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown threw out the “ceremonial first joke”—poking fun at himself for saying his daughters were “available” during his victory speech in 2010. But he refused to do a full set because of “gotcha journalism.” Go big or go home, we say.
Worst musical interlude: Ayla Brown. Scott Brown’s “available” daughter, a former fringy American Idol contestant, played a three-song set. It was a little rough—her mike stand broke, and her guitar work was shoddy (she recently started playing the instrument). She also urged the audience to buy her album on CD Baby, a reference you don’t get because no one’s bought anything from that site since 2003.
Overall loser: Female celebs. Couldn’t Richard Siegel, who ran the event, find any women to tell jokes? No one? Besides Ayla Brown, the stage was desperately wanting for a female voice.