By Kris Kitto - 09/11/08 04:32 PM EDT
Mike Huckabee won!
Not the race for the White House but the next best thing: Wednesday night’s 15th annual Funniest Celebrity in Washington Contest.
The former governor of Arkansas showed he’s not too proud to descend from the presidential campaign trail to the basement stage of the D.C. Improv comedy club to tell stories in the aw-shucks demeanor that endeared him to voters during his bid for the GOP nomination.
Huckabee mostly poked fun at himself, starting off by recounting the time he presented his “Huckabee for President” credit card to a clerk at a rental car counter in Colorado.
“President of what?” the clerk asked Huckabee, he said.
The former Baptist minister showed a calm on stage that discounted the nerves he said he felt when he arrived, walking down the black staircase and greeting several admirers in attendance.
“The campaign trail was a lot less stressful because the stakes weren’t as high,” Huckabee said before the show, though he appeared loose and at ease with the VIP guests who crowded around to shake his hand.
His competitors had varying feelings about their performances before the show. Dan Glickman, the president of the Motion Picture Association of America, recalled his performance in one of the past year’s funniest celebrity contests when he sang a song to the tune of Westside Story’s “Gee, Officer Krupke.” He placed eighth out of nine contestants.
“I’m not going to sing a song again,” he said.
Riz Khan of al-Jazeera, in a black suit and yellow scarf, took a seat near the stage before the show. He said his preparation included nothing more than “liv[ing] life.”
“When you’re a brown Muslim man going through [Transportation Security Administration], you have a lot of inspiration,” he said.
Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr dashed down the stairs moments before the show’s start time.
“I spent last week at the Republican convention,” said the former GOP congressman.
The night’s awkward moment came courtesy of Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who was on the evening’s bill to perform but was a no-show. His spokesman said Thursday he couldn’t make it because of scheduling conflicts.
But once the stand-up sets began, the evening rolled on with an easy target: Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family.
From the warm-up act, The Onion’s Baratunde Thurston characterized her meteoric rise: “Work hard, keep your nose clean, and you, too can have a rich old man whisk you off to Washington.”
Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist got in the next jab.
The required reading for all Alaska fourth-graders, he said, isn’t a book about a girl having two mommies; it’s “Heather Has Two Hunters.”
Then came Barr.
“Anyone know the difference between a bulldog and a hockey mom?” he asked. “A bulldog gets vetted.”
But the most creative Palin joke belonged to Glickman.
“I had no idea that when they did that movie “Juno” about a pregnant teenager that it was about Juneau, Alaska,” he said, referring to Palin’s pregnant teenage daughter, Bristol.
Once the judges tallied their scores, Richard Siegel, the event’s producer, presented the awards. Norquist came away with an honorable mention, Khan got 2nd runner-up, and in this race, Huckabee came out on top.
“He didn’t make the White House, but it’s darn close,” Siegel said.