“There just aren’t a lot of people here who mine that stuff,” said Naomi Johnson, the Funniest Fed organizer who works at the Department of Homeland Security. “The responses are bigger and better for standard comedy fare. It could be that people are usually so saturated and tired of the news that they just want a break from it.”
But with massive automatic budget cuts looming and angst levels rising around the area, Johnson wants to organize a comedy showcase to help her co-workers blow off sequester steam. She’d call it Furlough Funnies.
“People are feeling scapegoated and are just trying to get through this,” she said. “They’re exhausted and angry and resigned. They need an opportunity to get together outside of the office and laugh.”
Tyler Richardson, a Department of Veterans Affairs operations analyst and comedy-circuit regular, recently wrote a two-minute bit that uses Chinese bill collectors, a bad President Barack Obama impression and Steven Seagal throwing ninja stars to explain the sequester. (You have to hear it to get it.)
It’s been a hit, he said — even with a friend who “is afraid of what’s going to happen, because she’s a big worrier. But she said it was a good joke. She laughed. When people come to hear comedy, no matter what they’re dealing with, they just want to be entertained. They just want to laugh, even if it’s about something that affects them.”
Richardson plans to use the bit in his sets going forward, including Sunday at the Improv. He’ll use it for as long as there’s a sequester.
“That’s the risk of investing in topical humor,” he said. At some point, the story changes, and the joke dies. Most stand-up comics would prefer to spend their time working on jokes with longevity — another reason there aren’t more jokes about the latest black cloud hovering over the federal workforce.