Mr. Norquist insists that the pledge keeps politicians honest. Political opponents argue that it holds lawmakers hostage. Either way, the pledge has given Mr. Norquist genuine political influence, earning him blame for the supercommittee’s failure and titles like the “V.I. Lenin of the right.”
In person, however, Mr. Norquist hardly comes across as a conservative stereotype. He serves on the board of GOProud, a gay group. His wife is Muslim. He’s an accomplished ballroom dancer. He counts a Janis Joplin lunchbox as a prized possession.
At a 2006 “Wednesday meeting” former Vice President Al Gore presented his famous climate-change slideshow. One slide showed a map of a shrunken United States, the nation’s coastal areas submerged by rising sea levels.
Cracked Mr. Norquist: “So, how does this affect [congressional] redistricting?”
It’s this side of Mr. Norquist — dry and sly, a little geeky and a lot unexpected — that attracted Richard Siegel, creator of the Funniest Celebrity in Washington contest. While attending one of Mr. Norquist’s Wednesday meetings, the liberal-minded Mr. Siegel noticed that Mr. Norquist was actually, well, entertaining.
“You just don’t think he’s going to be that funny,” Mr. Siegel said. “He’s a tax guy. It takes you by surprise.”
“He’s really gotten a lot better at comedy,” Mr. Siegel said. “He’s gotten into talking about personal stuff. He’s self-deprecating. He jokes about the conservative movement. He made some jokes about Karl Rove on stage — and he’s friends with Rove. He really enjoys showing this other side of himself.”
“Bourbon, neat; no water. My rule, never drink water. Dick Cheney tortures people with it.”
- Norquist, during the 2009 funniest Washington celebrity contest
As a political advocate, Mr. Norquist would never say that — he wants his side to win.
But as a comedian?
“I’ll make fun of each side,” Mr. Norquist said. “I once did a joke about math sequences. ‘What’s one, two, three, four, five? Bill Clinton listing the Ten Commandments. What’s three, seven, nine? [Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales] listing the Bill of Rights.’
“[Comedian] Margaret Cho will get on stage and say, ‘I hate Sarah Palin.’ As a laugh line. That’s not comedy. That’s sitting around with your friends saying, ‘The [Boston] Red Sox [stink]. You’re just self-validating.”View Entire Story
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Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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