The annual St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast at the convention center last Sunday delivered laughs, groans, and an enduring image of Mayor Martin Walsh wearing a dense, pseudo-fur coat that seems destined to grace screensavers across the city.
State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, hosting the annual event for the third time, led the way through a chortle-and-cringe-worthy set befitting the breakfast’s hallowed and awkward tradition of top state and city elected officials trying their hands at comedy, but surely relieved that they have less joke-reliant day jobs.
The failed attempt earlier in the month by the mayor and police commissioner to shorten the post-breakfast St. Patrick’s Day Parade through South Boston infuriated locals and served as fodder for fresh zingers. “Mayor Walsh was trying to get the breakfast cut in half, too,’’ Sen. Forry said, to laughs from the 600-some guests.
The barbs at the “love-in” breakfast were gentler than Irish Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys had been led to expect, she said at the podium. But the politicians gamely leveled their shots against their colleagues and themselves on stage and in pre-recorded video sketches, amid breaks for Irish musical interludes.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, after a crack about trying her best to avoid the annual political laugh/groan fest, took aim at the presidential race and the crowd before her. “It seems that there are more people here this morning than all the people who voted for Jeb Bush,” she said, to a combination of laughter and “awws.”
“You have as many college students as at a Clinton rally, the diversity of a Sanders rally, and the combined blood-alcohol of a Trump rally,” she added. “People here have been drinking since the crack of dawn, and yet you’re still more coherent than Donald Trump.”
Trump also provided the set-up for some delightful prop humor, as Congressman Steve Lynch revealed giant fake hands, a take from a campaign trail reference to Trump’s small hands that Lynch used to needle Mayor Martin Walsh.
A number of politicians made easy fun of the embattled Sen. Brian Joyce, who is the subject of an ongoing ethics probe. Joyce allegedly had received free dry cleaning for years while in office, making him a soft target for jibes.
Governor Charlie Baker made a slightly delayed entrance, hoisting a basket of laundry at the podium. “I’m sorry I’m late,” Baker said. “I’ve been waiting for Senator Joyce. I had some laundry I needed done. And boy, I hear he gets a really good deal.”
The Republican governor noted that his sky-high approval ratings have not seemed to translate into successful endorsements -- Scott Brown and Richard Tisei in 2012 and 2014, and, most recently, the ill-fated run by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the presidential race, who then endorsed Donald Trump, whom he had vilified when he was a candidate.
“So I’m here today to take a moment to publicly endorse Elizabeth Warren, Marty Walsh, and Maura Healey for governor in 2018,” Baker said, a whimsical kiss-of-death political move on his own behalf.
As in previous years, prepared videos played a central role at the breakfast. A chuckle-worthy in-office sketch featured Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo assessing the Legislature’s work on marijuana legalization by pretending to be high in his State House office.
Two other filmed sketches sparked hearty laughs. In one, the governor and Sen. Forry unleashed their inner scamps on Southie, chucking water balloons at City Councillor At-Large Michael Flaherty’s car, ringing Congressman Lynch’s doorbell and scurrying off, and decorating the South Boston sidewalks with chalk before South Boston Rep. Nick Collins appropriated their drawing utensils for himself.
And Walsh, after taking his lumps over the parade kerfuffle, won points by the end of the breakfast. Referencing the juggernaut Adele music video for “Hello,” the mayor sipped Doughboy coffee and ambled around as images and headlines of the Baker-Walsh “bromance” floated across the screen.
Clad in the absurd fur coat, Walsh stared longingly with arms outstretched toward the State House from Boston Common, looking for his gubernatorial BFF to talk about GE bringing its headquarters to Boston. Walsh mumbled mournfully through the musical parody, his phone calls going unreturned. “Give me a call back,” Walsh said. “I need you.”