It was a distressing attempt to marry Las Vegas lounge humor with a touching moment in politics, said a guest at the $1000-a-plate tribute to Hubert H. Humphrey earlier this month. He was referring to the jokes of the master of ceremonies, comedian Alan King, at the star-spangled evening that raised nearly $2 million for the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
Before Humphrey's touching speech, King bombarbed his audience with jokes like these:
After introducing Elizabeth Taylor Warner, who kissed Humphrey, King said, "Senator Humphrey, you're doing good. He told me years ago, you know, that politics is like sex: you don't have to be good at it to enjoy it."
When he introduced actress Angie Dickinson, King told her "If my wife looked like you, I'd never get dressed."
To Jimmy Carter, King said, "I would just like to wish you well on you world trip. I notice on your agenda you're not visiting the state of Israel; I guess you don't want to kiss Golda, either. But isn't it amazing that we'd live to see the day when the President from the great state of Egypt would visit the great state of Israel? I guess Sadat got tired of buying retail."
"Senator Humphrey," King said, "I want to take this one moment and make you an offical Jew which entitles you to 2000 years of retroactive persecution."
Even after House Speaker Tip O'Neill told King the governor of Rhode Island's name was Joseph Garrahy, not Garth, as King had introduced him, the comedian again mispronounced his name, calling him Garrity - twice. He told Garrahy "I thought you'd be shorter" and "no, seriously, I spent three months in your state one Sunday afternoon . . ."
Choice of King as MC was made by the entertainment director, Jeff Wald, husband of singer Helen Reddy.