The honor of a public office, wide public acclaim and religious ordination provided no shelter on Saturday night when the humorous verbal jabs started flying at the Omaha Press Club Show.
The jokes, silly songs and puns hit lots of bases: baseball stadiums, a mayoral recall, a U.S. Senate race, a wheel tax for out-of-towners and even the indignities of passing through airport security scanners.
Some politicians assaulted in word and song were brave enough to partake in the revelry on stage. Among them were Mayor Jim Suttle, Sen. Ben Nelson and Douglas County Treasurer John Ewing. Nelson listed the 10 reasons he might run for re-election.
No. 10, Nelson said: “I actually know where Lexington and Concord are located. They are both right here in Nebraska. Lexington is the Dawson County seat and Concord is just off Highway 15 in Dixon County.”
The 54th gridiron show, titled “SchlegelKegger,” drew inspiration from Creighton University's growing campus, its retiring president, the Rev. John Schlegel, and the school's plan to serve beer on campus. The setting for the show was a tongue-in-cheek, on-campus bar dubbed SchlegelKegger.
KFAB's Gary Sadlemyer, as the barkeeper, kept the show rolling at a humorous and quick pace. He thanked Mayor Suttle for floating the idea of a toilet paper tax the week before the show and carried on a brisk banter with cast and visitors. Omaha businessman David Nabity, for example, stopped in the tavern saying he'd like “love, respect and understanding — any two will do.”
The bar set the stage for a number of polka-themed numbers, including a rollicking revision of “Beer Barrel Polka” in honor of the unsuccessful recall election: “Throw out the mayor and all the councilmen too. Let every mayor make his office a revolving door.”
The tavern setting also proved appropriate for the show's open-mic comedy contest for Omaha humorist Mary Maxwell, KFAB voice talent Matt Tompkins and KFAB talk-show host Tom Becka.
Two knock-out vocal performances referenced baseball: the tearing down of Rosenblatt Stadium and the metro's reluctance to accept Storm Chasers as the new name for the Omaha Royals.
KIOS announcer Michael Lyon looked and sounded like Frank Sinatra singing “There Used To Be a Ballpark” (a song Sinatra recorded in the 1970s). Lyon tweaked the sentimental lyrics to include references the College World Series, Omaha World-Herald fireworks shows and ice cream at Zesto's.
Douglas County Register of Deeds Diane Battiato sang “Stormy Weather” with all the verve of blues singers Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald, changing the lyrics to: “When we play, and the sky starts turnin' gray, our Storm Chasers will be hittin' those two and three basers. Keep winnin' all the time.”
The Rev. Stephen Boes, national executive director of Boys Town, pulled on a black cape and a white mask, like the Phantom of the Opera, and sang a Broadway-worthy tribute to Schlegel's ability to get donations for Creighton. Singing to “Music of the Night,” Boes sang “Let your philanthropic side give in to the power of the music that I write.”
Schlegel danced in the final polka of the show while cast members sang “Father John Schlegel has raised all the dough; Father John Schlegel made our campus grow.”
An audience of about 575 filled the Mid-America Center Ballroom in Council Bluffs for the 90-minute show, a benefit for the Press Club Foundation and its journalism scholarships for students at UNO, UNL and Creighton University.
Chris Christen was executive producer for the show. Keith Allerton was artistic director and Rebecca Noble was music director.
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