Corbett, Wolf become funny foes

Did you hear the one about the two candidates for governor who walked into a bar?

Well, it wasn’t a bar exactly. It was the Pittsburgh Improv Club in Homestead, where Gov. Tom Corbett and Democratic nominee Tom Wolf joined a roster of other politicians in cracking wise to raise money for Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services’ programs for underprivileged children. Last night’s event raised an estimated $40,000 and, according to the emcee, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gene Collier, the annual Candidates Comedy Night has raised more than $400,000 for youth programs over its seven years.

In only their second joint appearance of the campaign, they were the headliners on a bill that also included Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, and Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair; county Executive Rich Fitzgerald; Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto; and state Sen. Wayne Fontana. Another state senator, Philadelphia’s Mike Stack, also appeared. The Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor risked upstaging his senior partner as Mr. Stack has some experience at stand-up comedy. Rounding out the program was an energetic Erin McClelland, the Democrat challenging Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, in the 12th Congressional district.

Candidates comedy night at the Pittsburgh Improv

Candidates comedy night at the Pittsburgh Improv in Homestead. (Video by Nate Guidry; 8/14/2014)

Ms. McClelland was the only woman on the evening’s stage, which gave her the prerogative of offering the first Viagra joke. It was not directed at her opponent, however, for reasons that cannot be cited in a family newspaper.

She followed Mr. Peduto, who still seemed to be having trouble moving on from his city hall victory last year as he couldn’t resist making former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl his chief target.

Rep. Murphy took the opportunity to display his musical talent with a faux folk song mocking the Environmental Protection Agency. But with a roster dominated by Democrats, Mr. Corbett’s record provided the most common fodder for the jokes.

“The only thing rated lower than Tom Corbett is the Ebola virus,” Mr. Doyle observed.

The governor’s low-key opponent, Mr. Wolf, took some shots over his subdued demeanor. Sen. Wayne Fontana reported that he had been alarmed at a political picnic last week to see two woodpeckers pecking at the Democratic nominee.

Mr. Wolf lamented the fact that Sen. Bob Casey did not attend, noting that if he stood next to the state’s senior senator, people might think he was exciting for a change.

Mr. Wolf reveled in the fact that everywhere he goes in Pittsburgh, people recognize him — “Unfortunately, they think I’m Edgar Snyder.”

When his turn came on the stage, the incumbent took aim at his trademark commercial symbol, polling the crowd on how many were “tired of looking at that [expletive] Jeep.”

If Mr. Corbett was the most frequent butt of the amateur jokes, county Executive Rich Fitzgerald was probably a close second as speaker after speaker celebrated his fondness for fracking water.

The light-hearted face-off came just after the gubernatorial campaigns announced the schedule for more earnest encounters further down the road. Mr. Corbett and Mr. Wolf will meet for three debates. The first will come Sept. 22 at the annual Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce dinner in Hershey, Pa. They’ll meet again Oct. 1 at KYW-TV in Philadelphia and conclude the series at the WTAE studio in Wilkinsburg on Oct. 8.

On the evidence of their performances Wednesday night, our advice to the candidates can only be: Folks, if you manage to get them, keep your day jobs.

James O'Toole: or 412-263-1562. First Published August 14, 2014 12:00 AM

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