Among the first things journalists once learned was the Chicago News Bureau maxim that “if your mother says she loves you, check it out.” Dan Zak of The Washington Post must have missed that lesson in j-school, judging by his review of last night's D.C.'s Funniest Celebrities charity event at the Improv.
I was honored – and terrified, quite frankly – to have the opportunity to be among 11 contestants invited to do a three or four minute routine on the famous stage. Among the other contestants were repeat performers like former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, and Americans for Tax Reform honcho Grover Norquist, who graciously invited me.
You might think that doing a standup comedy routine would be no sweat for somebody who has had hundreds of opportunities to speak to crowds of all sizes during the course of his career. You would be wrong, at least in my case. As I said in my opening, “I don't do jokes, I'm a conservative. I do Angry White Man. I do Okie from Muskogee. I don't do jokes.”
But despite the pre-show jitters – I literally felt like puking about five mnutes before hitting the mike – I managed to scrounge together a routine, most of which was original. But right in the middle came this series of eight or nine health care “definitions” that I borrowed from Bob Phillips' Liberal Joke Book,” published in 1994. I also used one line about Hillary Clinton that was contributed by the inestimable Julia Gorin.
I had intended to make these credits clear at the end of the routine, but in my nervousness forgot to do so. Now along comes Zak who unintentionally provides an opportunity for me to correct the record. Here's what he wrote:
“'Take President Obama,' said Washington Examiner editor Mark Tapscott, who clumsily lifted half of his act from an email forward on health care that circulated several years ago. 'Please take President Obama.'”
There are three factual errors in Zak's statement, any one of which was easily avoidable had he taken the time to ask me. First, I am not the editor of this esteemed newspaper, I am the editorial page editor. Second, the lines in question represented only about 15 percent of the routine, not half. Finally and most important, those lines didn't come from an email, they came from Phillips book, which is still quite funny despite its age.
Since I had intended to mention them on stage, I would have been eager to tell Zak afterwards about Phillips and Gorin had he bothered to check with me about my souces once he decided to make an issue of it. You can read the balance of Zak's piece here. I hope he was more professional in his review of the other brave souls who got up on the stage last night than he was with me.
Bottom line: It was a tremendously fun evening, White House economic advisor Austin Goolsby was a rip and richly deserved to win, Rep. Rick Larsen, D-WA, was even funnier backstage than he was in front of the delightful audience, and I have no plans to quit my day job.
If this cheap shot is indicative of Zak's typical approach to reporting, however, the Post editors might want to reconsider whether his day job should continue at its present location.
UPDATE: Want to watch a slow-motion car wreck?
Well, it really wasn't that bad, but my friends at ALG/Washington News Observer, led by Sergio Gor, have posted a videotape of the session, for which I am very grateful. I just hope it doesn't embarrass my wife and kids! They also posted Grover's delightful routine.