Sept. 19, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

One Night Only: Humor and Humility on Stage

Courtesy Richard Siegel
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has vied for the title of “Funniest Celebrity in Washington” in the past.

So, President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker John Boehner are on an ocean liner and it sinks. Who is saved?

The country — ba dump bump.

The jokes are likely (although not guaranteed) to be funnier on Wednesday night when a collection of wisecracking D.C. politicos, journalists and others gather for a bipartisan comedy event for charity.

The 18th annual “Funniest Celebrity in Washington” competition will be held at the DC Improv comedy club on Connecticut Avenue, showcasing an array of political celebs looking to game their gift of gab before a packed crowd of eager philanthropists. 

“It’s a great opportunity for people in politics to get out of their shell,” event associate Katelyn Gimbel says. “It’s fun to see people that work in really serious fields to show people a lighter side but also raise money for a good cause.”

Proceeds will benefit the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. Ancillary benefits include the chance to laugh with people you might be fighting with next week.

“I do some political jokes and a bunch of observational humor,” said longtime participant Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “From children jokes to marriage jokes to poopy jokes, any [material] that comes up when you got a bunch of kids running around.”

On the not-so-funny side of things, Norquist found himself at the center of the debate over the failure of the super committee to come up with a deficit reduction plan. That might serve as fodder for some amateur humorist on Wednesday, but event founder Richard Siegel said the night is an opportunity for people of all political persuasions to look beyond partisan agendas, if just for one night.

“It’s the most unique experience out there,” Siegel said. “Democrats and Republicans sitting together with no politics. It’s like we can be civilized for once.”

The event, often short-handed as “DC’s Funniest,” began as a public relations campaign for the now defunct Comedy Café. As the venue’s promotions coordinator in 1987, Siegel wanted to find a way to attract more publicity.

“My boss was trying to find ways to get more media in the cafe, so he decided to start a celebrity media comedy competition,” he said.

Siegel thought a media-only event was too limited, so he decided to broaden the field.

“The first five years it was mostly local personalities like weathermen, local TV stars and White House correspondents,” Siegel said. He decided to reach out to bigger names. “I started asking people like Chris Matthews, Tim Russert and Barney Frank,” he said. To his surprise, they came.

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