The hundreds of lawmakers, media professionals, staffers and armchair pundits who piled into the Mandarin Oriental ballroom for the Washington Press Club Foundation’s yearly gala Wednesday were treated to a double dose of comedy from a pair of quick-witted pols.
Colorado Republican Cory Gardner and New York Democrat Charles B. Rangel took turns letting each other, their colleagues and everyone else in the room for the 71st Annual Congressional Dinner have it, peppering their tongue-in-cheek remarks with topical barbs.
MSNBC personality Alex Wagner (check out her routine from 27:45-35:01) led the assault by comparing Capitol Hill decorating schemes to hit TV shows. “It was too easy. I’m sorry, Speaker Boehner,” the suddenly repentant broadcaster said after making an “Orange Is the New Black” crack about the Ohio Republican.
Gardner (35:20-44:00) cut a much wider swath, making snarky comments about a whole host of members — including himself.
“I recognize that I was not the original speaker for tonight … but you know how Steve Scalise is. He can be so picky about the groups that he talks to,” Gardner quipped toward the beginning of a rapid fire-set that fragged Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill.; Scalise; former Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.; Rangel; Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; lawmaker-turned-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence; former Sen. and Secretary of State John Kerry; singer-songwriter James Taylor; the Koch brothers; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; disgraced Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont.; ex-Sen. Scott P. Brown, R-Mass.; Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.
The yin to Gardner’s zigzagging yang, Rangel elected to draw out his observations (44:17-52:20) via two central themes. The first involved possibly retiring from public service and joining the ranks of Fox News.
His centerpiece, though, involved fielding a fake phone call from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — the soon-to-be Hillside world leader some Democrats are wary of having on their home turf.
“Who invited you?” Rangel rather incredulously asked the phantom diplomat.
During the fake conversation, the 23-term congressman urged “Bibi” to carefully consider his actions.
“You don’t want to come to our country, to our house and criticize our president. So I would advise you to check before you come because you don’t want to have this problem with the friends of Israel,” Rangel counseled, just before tossing in a cheery, “Shalom to you, too!”
Rangel managed to work in some quick digs against Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, before hanging up, and returning his full attention to the media on hand for the event.
“When it comes to my relationship with the press, this gives me an opportunity to say that all of the mean things I have ever said about you in the heat of anger: I meant,” he hung out there before signing off.
Post-roast, Gardner told HOH he’d actually held his tongue about a few things.
“There were some jokes that I thought were a little too mean and went too far. Particularly on Joe Biden,” he said. “We had a lot on Joe Biden.”
He could not, however, say enough nice things about his former House mate.
“Charlie’s a great guy. And he’s got a great presence,” Gardner said of Rangel. “People love him.”
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