Ladies and gentlemen, remember this name: Billy Long.
“None of you know me,” the first-term congressman from Missouri declared in an after-dinner speech Wednesday. “My chief of staff decided when I first got to Congress I couldn’t go on TV, couldn’t go on any cable shows. . . I’m what they call the unknown congressman.”
Well, no longer! For Long made one heck of a first impression with his rollicking comic routine at the Washington Press Club Foundation dinner — the unofficial kickoff of the Beltway’s media-political schmooze season.
His secret weapon: Fat guy jokes — a surefire tactic for a crowd (journalists, lobbyists, lawmakers) too blurry on banquet wine to appreciate more cerebral humor. The roly-poly Republican flashed a slideshow of the colleagues he claims he’s always being confused for — Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Penn.), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.). . . let’s just call them the Jowl Caucus.
“Here’s one guy they never confuse me with,” groused Long, “Aaron Schock. Voted the ‘best abs in Congress.’ How can they prove he has the best abs in Congress? ’Cause they never wanted to see mine. . . We should start a second Abscam investigation.”
Hahaha! Oh, wait — you’re under 50? Well, you see, back in 1980 there was this FBI sting called ABSCAM involving congressmen taking bribes from a sheik. . . No matter. Something about Long’s good-ol’ boy drawl made the crowd laugh at even the lamer jokes. An auctioneer by trade, he even managed keep the room’s attention through a routine that sprawled to the near-lethal length of 20 minutes. (Fellow speakers Rep. Linda Sanchez and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen kept closer to the recommended five minutes.)
We tell you: This guy’s gonna be a star. (At least within the field of really funny congressional after-dinner speakers, now that Anthony Weiner’s retired from that scene. He was good at this, too.) Cable-news bookers, put him on speed-dial.
“My wife got me one of those talking scales for Christmas,” Long said. “I got on it and it said, ‘One at a time, please, one at a time’. . . If I lose 60 pounds it would be like throwing a deck chair off the Titanic.” Oh, and check out the photo of him with Chris Christie. Why’d the New Jersey governor want them to pose together? Because, Long claims the governor told him, “I have never had someone look at a picture and say, ‘Hey, who’s the big guy with Christie?’”
Read earlier: Anthony Weiner schools freshmen at Congressional Correspondents’ dinner, 3/31/11