- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

Senate Minority LeaderTom Daschle has lost another one. The Democrat whose party took a hit in last November's elections might be getting a complex, though he seemed to draw comfort from earning a second-place finish at the Funniest Celebrity in Washington contest last week.
"Just a month ago I was competing to be the leader of the Free World. Now, I'm trying to be funnier than Dan Glickman," Mr. Daschle said of the former secretary of agriculture, one of 10 vying for the funny crown.
Wednesday's event at the National Press Club, the 10th such affair for a variety of worthy causes, reinforced the old saw that while dying is easy, comedy is hard.
Being funny takes more than a witty punch line. It demands solid timing, sharp delivery and, at times, a healthy dollop of outrage at the world's foibles. The better comics don't step on an audience's toes. If they do, their jokes are so funny the crowd doesn't mind being teased.
This year's winner, Fox News' White House correspondent James Rosen, taunted his Jewish parents, mocked press matriarchHelen Thomas and ridiculed his fellow competitors. He got laughs without leaning on prewritten notes for his snappy patter as other contestants did.
"Tonight, we have the charisma deficit," Mr. Rosen said of his competition before launching into a series of impersonations of President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw.
Professional comic Lewis Black of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" also played the anger card. He seemed to be frothing at the mouth over greedy CEOs and vaccines that last less than a lifetime. He made no apologies for his salty language.
Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas took a higher road in his routine, jabbing the Democratic presidential hopefuls without uttering a word.
"My parents taught me never speak ill of the dead," Mr. Thomas cracked.
A few of the 10 competitors got only polite chuckles from the crowd, including WTOP's "Man About Town" Bob Madigan who wasted time by handing out ice scrapers to the befuddled judges. Etiquette guru Letitia Baldrige also snared few laughs until the house band struck up to tell her her allotted time was up.
"That is really rude," she cried as the ballroom erupted with laughter.
The reigning champion, syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington, also drew a cool reaction with her set. Maybe the guests had driven to the event in one of those gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles she now deplores.
Among those judging the amateur stand-ups were NBC News' Norah O'Donnell, former Washington Redskins great Charles Mann and CNN "Crossfire" host Tucker Carlson.
The evening held a more sober purpose between the chuckles. The night doubled as a fund-raiser for WAVE Work, Achievement, Values & Education a nonprofit which helps struggling teens stay in school.
At a pre-dinner VIP reception, judges and contestants mingled in preparation for the main event.
One funny fellow not competing at the event was Sen. Pat Roberts, veteran newsman Sam Donaldson noted.
"You look at ol' Pat and you say, he's just a nice old country boy," Mr. Donaldson said of the Kansas Republican "Then, he starts talking and you're in stitches."
Political satiristP.J. O'Rourke said he knew why the annual event drew so many funny people inside-the-Beltway types have plenty of time to hone their craft.
"They don't actually do anything for a living," he said.

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