The National Press Club, of which I'm a member, recently held a standing-room-only forum on ``Hu mor, Politics and the Media.'' The Washington meeting was interesting and fun entertain mentthough not in the way I anticipated.
It began a s a true laugh-fest when master of ceremonies and ``60 Minutes'' anchorman Morley Safer asked political humorists Al Franken and Bill Maher about the opportunities for jokes in this elec tion year. Their answers were hi larious, as long a s you don't con sider Bob Dole sacrosanct.
``BOB DOLE...wants...SCRAMBLED EGGS!'' Franken said in his pa tented impersonation of Dole or dering breakfast. ``And BOB DOLE...does NOT like...his eggs RUNNY!''
``Bob Dole is so old that when he declared victory in California, he declared it for Spain!'' Maher added helpfully.
Even the press flaks were funny at first. ``Pat Buchanan says there's no room in his campaign for racists and anti-Semites,'' said Roger Stone, former press secretary to Dan Quayle. ``Well
of course not! Those positions were filled months ago!"
When the press secretaries started to talk about their employers, however, a touch of asperity crept into the proceedings. It bacam evident the press flaks' main concern was to cover their bosses' behings, and their own-a fool's errand when Franken and Maher around.
Tony Blankley, press secretary to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, averred that politicians tell no more lies than the rest of the population. Maher stood up and made shoveling motions. Blankley mande a half-hearted stab at looking amused, like Roger Ebert trapped a t a Pauly Shore film festival.
When Safer opened the floor for questions, it was hard to say which was more annoying - the sheer dullness of the questions (most of which had been answered by the panel) or the rudeness with which they were asked. The assembled journalists jumped up willy-nilly, interrupting the pannelists and each other in their urge to get THEIR questions in.
The questioners didn't sound as if they were having fun. They DID sound as if they suspected athe panelists of selling atomic secrets to the Serbs, and wanted to get the goods on them before anyone else in the room did.
Sor the forum was less funny than fascinating, a privileged glimpse into Washington sociology. For me, above all, it proved three things:
Political press secretaries resent political humorists.
Political humorists resent political press secretaries.
Political reporters resent both.
Moore is an RPN staff reporter based in Washington.