Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) at the Washington Press Club Foundation dinner on March 13, 2019. (Tom Williams)

This might be as funny as Official Washington gets this year — and that’s, well ... a little sad. With the upcoming White House correspondents’ dinner going comic-free, the annual Washington Press Club Foundation on Wednesday was the biggest chance for nerdy Beltway humor to have its moment.

The formal dinner, attended by a ballroom full of journalists, Hill aides and members of Congress, traditionally features stand-up acts by a lawmaker on either side of the aisle. Did we say the bar was low? It was low, folks, and a good thing that the wine was flowing, the spirit was one of bipartisan appreciation for the press and the proceeds were going to the foundation’s mission to support women and minority journalists.

The evening took on even more significance than usual — it marked the 100th anniversary of the original Women’s National Press Club, founded when the National Press Club was men-only, and its 75th annual dinner.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.), gamely stepping up for the GOP, seemed to answer the question of whether he had gotten joke-writing assistance from his pal Pete Davidson of “Saturday Night Live.” The two shared a sweet on-air reconciliation last year after the comic apologized for mocking Crenshaw’s eye patch. (The congressman was wounded while serving in Afghanistan.)


Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) at the Washington Press Club Foundation dinner on March 13, 2019. (Tom Williams)

The answer, alas, appeared to be no. Crenshaw got some laughs, though, (did we mention the wine?), with a few zingers and dry comedic timing. He opened with a riff about how he prepared for the performance, wondering whether he should make Democrats or the press the target of his punchlines: “Eh, it’s kind of the same thing."

More clowning on the media came when he joked that the press actually had reasons to like President Trump. “Journalism is cool again,” he said. “Imagine if it’s John Delaney in the White House," he suggested, referring to the mild-mannered former Democratic congressman and long-shot presidential hopeful. "You got nothing.”

And he eventually turned his comedic stylings on President Trump, attempting a Trump impersonation and joking about all the scourges that have been blamed on the commander in chief. “You’re dating less, you’re having less sex — definitely Trump’s fault,” he said, noting that there had actually been an article written on the subject. “Your CODEL plan gets canceled to Afghanistan ... Trump!" he said, referring to the time the president grounded a flight by Democratic leadership.

“That actually happened," he conceded. "That one is actually Trump’s fault.”

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) landed even fewer jokes, and there was a bad (though mercifully brief) Bernie Sanders impersonation. She stumbled the lead-up to a crack about Vice President Pence, which involved the scheduling of a dinner with the conservative Christian, who famously avoids being alone with women other than his wife. But she managed the punchline: “They canceled it because Mother was nowhere to be found.”

But her funniest line came at the expense of a fellow Dem. She imagined a plan to replace the complicated Iowa caucuses with a contest to see which candidate could hit the most interns in a binder throwing contest. (Um, ha-ha?) “We kinda figured Amy Klobuchar would win that one," she said. "She’s had some practice.”