Arlen Specter appears on stage, but just for laughs

Arlen Specter goes for the laughs during an open-mike night Tuesday at the Helium Comedy Club on Sansom Street. "I've been in comedy now for 30 years," the former senator explained.
Arlen Specter goes for the laughs during an open-mike night Tuesday at the Helium Comedy Club on Sansom Street. "I've been in comedy now for 30 years," the former senator explained. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 28, 2011

So an ex-senator walks into a comedy club . . .

That's not the setup to a joke - it's what happened Tuesday night when Arlen Specter took the stage at the Helium Comedy Club's open-mike night in Center City.

"I've been in comedy now for 30 years," the former senator explained.

Taking a try at stand-up was a natural step after spending so many years in the "sit-down comedy" of Congress - and, Specter noted, it was considerably less expensive.

While some of his jokes are unprintable in a family newspaper - don't ask about the paraplegic who wanted to date the battered woman - Specter spent much of his three minutes on stage ribbing prominent local and national politicians.

And, as befits someone who switched political parties twice in his career, both Republicans and Democrats were up for ribbing.

Specter explained that Gov. Christie was upset that a recent storm demolished his Jersey Shore house because it also destroyed "his entire library - both books. And he wasn't finished coloring one."

After making jokes about both former President Bill Clinton's and current Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's adulterous pasts, Specter quipped: "When I see Bill Clinton, I'm going to tell him that Newt Gingrich got applause and he didn't."

As for Ed Rendell, his East Falls neighbor, Specter told reporters afterward that "he can watch the newscast" to find out what joke Specter made at his expense.

Here's a hint: It had to do with the now-single former governor's amorous pursuits.

Truth be told, many of the jokes were repackaged from previous comedic performances, especially a 2007 appearance at a Washington comedy-club competition, where he was crowned second-funniest celebrity in the nation's capital. (At that gig, former Sen. Trent Lott was the butt of the "both books" joke.)

That did not stop Specter's audience - composed mostly of people young enough to be his grandchildren - from roaring with laughter.

Speaking by telephone before the performance, Specter's wife, former City Councilwoman Joan Specter, said that the appearance was unconnected to a forthcoming memoir by the senator set to be released in March.

"Thank God," as she put it.

Afterward, her husband told reporters that "humor is elevating" and that he wanted to "try it out."

And who knows?

"I might be invited back," Specter said.


Contact staff writer Anthony Campisi at 215-854-5015, acampisi@phillynews.com, or @campisia on Twitter.

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