I've been trying to say something nice about Mayor Emanuel because—I don't know, just because. So I'll give him this: the guy got off a pretty good line the other day about Theo Epstein, the Cubs new honcho.
When asked at a press conference by Chicago Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman if the excitement over Epstein coming to the Cubs makes it likely that he will hurry up with a handout for Wrigley Field reconstruction, the mayor responded: "Do you think that by choosing a guy called Theo Epstein that this mayor, Rahm Israel Emanuel, would be more sensitive to their needs? Is that what you were asking?”
OK, so it's not Don Rickles. But by Chicago standards it's not bad.
The thing about Mayor Emanuel is that he clearly wants to be funny—he's always making wisecracks to Spielman—but he's just not a funny guy. He's so nasty that when he tries to be funny he comes off mean. Think Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.
But, wait, I was going to be nice . . .
In his defense, who are his role models? My god, Mayor Daley was horribly unfunny, even though he also wanted to be a comedian. In fact, he usually got into the most trouble when he tried to crack wise, like when he told my good pal Mick Dumke to stick an assault rifle—bayonet and all—up his ass.
Still hurts just thinking about it.
For that matter, there are no really consistently funny politicians in this town. OK, every now and then Ed Burke does get off a wisecrack about Zsa Zsa Gabor. But I think that's the only joke he knows.
And—don't tell him I told you this—but former Cook County assessor Jim Houlihan does a hilarious imitation of Mayor Daley. It's not something Houlihan does in public, though he might give you a sample, if you bump into him on the street.
Aldermen Walter Burnett can be pretty funny, in his own droll way. And Congressman Jesse Jackson used to be a screamer—imitations and everything—but then he got entangled in that whole Blagojevich mess. And, well, we don't really hear anything from Junior, funny or otherwise, anymore.
I remember hearing former alderman Leon Despres tell a funny joke about Jewish mothers. It was at a Sunday bagel brunch fund-raiser for Harold Washington at the Belmont Hotel.
As I recall it went something like this: "My mother bought me two ties—one red, one blue—for my birthday. I was wearing the red one when I visited her the other day, and she said: What? You don't like the blue tie I got you?"
Feel free to use it, Mayor Emanuel, the next time Fran Spielman asks you a tough question.