The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 2, 2013

Washington comedians try to mine material from sequestration


“You got any sequester jokes?” comedian Tim Miller asked open-mike host Kyle Martin before they went onstage at Topaz.

“I’m not wasting any time on that,” Martin replied.

The opposite is true on the late-night shows, which are all about ephemeral humor. Accordingly, sequester jokes have begun to surface in their monologues this week.

“Automatic budget cuts could negatively affect water and sewage services,” Conan O’Brien warned. “In other words, all of America is about to embark on a Carnival Cruise.”

Japed Jay Leno: “Doesn’t sequestration sound like some kind of side effect from a bad medicine?”

That, or it sounds like “obliteration,” a word that previously appeared in a song worked up by the Capitol Steps, to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The long-running political satire troupe (slogan: “We put the MOCK in democracy”) tweaked the lyric a few days ago. The song now goes: “Glory glory to our nation/We could face a sequestration/Let us try cooperation.” (Beat.) “Naaaaah!/And that we agree on.”

“Let’s face it, if you don’t laugh at this stuff, it makes you crazy,” said Mark Eaton, a writer and performer with the Capitol Steps, which performs Fridays and Saturdays near downtown Washington at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. “We’ve heard all the scare stories about the sequester here; we’re just trying to make good humor from bad situations.”

On Thursday night, about an hour before his 10-minute set, Rizvi stood near the back of the Enlightenment Room, reading over his new jokes, which he’d written on his smartphone. He looked up. “Has the sequester been solved yet?” he asked.

It had not. “Good,” he said. “I’d lose like three minutes of material tonight.”

He’d written three jokes — a quick one, about having always hated forced vacations, and two longer ones. He’d been working and reworking them at home and on breaks throughout the week. At the Labor Department, the mood had been gloomy all week. Here, though, he was giddy.

Oh, the bifurcation!

The jokes were a hit. Rizvi beamed, then wondered what comes next.

“I have dual feelings,” he said. “The comedian side wants the sequester to go on and on.” But, he said, “it’s unfair for me to want that . . . just so I can have a few minutes of material.”

It’s a funny business.

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