A celebrity roast is an odd event in which a well-known person is “honored” by personal friends making fun of him.
House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch got the treatment Thursday night to raise money for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.
The event was more like a political fundraiser for the Annapolis Democrat. In January, he will become the longest serving speaker in Maryland history if, as presumed, he is reelected by his colleagues to his 10th year in the post.
A lead organizer of the event was veteran lobbyist Bruce Bereano, who gently cajoled several hundred people into paying $125 for the affair, including a table Busch bought for his staff to attend. A nice touch as a souvenir was a lapel pin with a bobble-headed cartoon of Busch from the program.
“Mike looks like a constipated chipmunk,” joked District Court Judge Richard Duden III.
“By day, I’m a judge,” Duden said. “Tonight, I get to be an executioner.”
But given Maryland’s aversion to actually carrying out the death penalty, the humor was non-lethal and mostly of the “you-hadda-be-there” variety.
Tom Marquardt, editor and publisher of the Annapolis Capital, held up a mock front page of the newspaper dated Nov. 11, 2020 – joking that it was only one-page, referring to the slow shrinking of his industry.
The lead story describes Busch, like a modern day Napoleon, being hauled off by helicopter to exile on Hart-Miller Island, the dredge-spoil creation in the Chesapeake Bay. This was done by order of “Gov. Don Dwyer,” the conservative Republican delegate from Glen Burnie who frequently clashes with the speaker.
House Majority Leader Kumar Barve admitted, “I didn’t exercise good judgment in coming here,” and made as much fun of himself as he did of Busch.
Barve said his job on the House floor involved “explaining things that they don’t want to hear,” such as “how the congressional districting map was a thing of beauty.”
Busch served on the five-member Governor’s Advisory Committee on Redistricting that drew some districts derisively referred to as “ink blots” and “bloody splatters.”
Duden quipped that Busch, a former college football player and high school coach, “thought Gerry Mandering played tight end for the Bears.”
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, a former delegate, said, “It was not very smart to be roasting the speaker of the House,” so mostly pulled his punches.
“Mistress of Ceremonies” Linnel Bowen, executive director at the nearby Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, said, “It’s trying to be a love-in.”
The final roaster was the silver-haired U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who in the 1970s was the red-haired Senate president, the youngest in Maryland history, with Bereano as his chief of staff. Hoyer made few jokes at Busch’s expense, and closed on a serious note with a quote from Frederick Douglass, Maryland’s most famous ex-slave and abolitionist: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
An un-singed Busch ended the evening by responding with a slide-show basting the roasters. It included a drawing of Hoyer as a Jefferson-like Founding Father and a fake photo of Omar Sharif hugging Barve, his “illegitimate son.”