While it lacked both Dean Martin and a host committee clad in evening wear, the Virginia Public Access Project’s roast of RTD columnist Jeff Schapiro held Tuesday afternoon in downtown Richmond was quite an event. The ballroom was packed with pols, lobbyists, their hangers-on, assorted pressies and others. The others included me, sitting in the back, close to a door, just in case.
Roasts are tricky things. They are either hilarious or tedious. Fortunately, this one was generally quite funny.
Former Gov. Jerry Baliles reminded folks, in case they had forgotten, that he really is a bit gray. House Speaker Bill Howell stole the show, with one liners that would have made Don Rickles proud (Jeff as a Democratic “attack hamster.” Priceless).
The AP’s Bob Lewis opted for prop comedy and impressions. His take on Doug Wilder? Eerily close to life.
But I suspect most folks were there to see George Allen and Tim Kaine, sitting next to one another on the dais, and how they would handle the columnist who has made such sport of them over the years.
Allen was quick, funny and scored a genuine coup by mentioning Jeff’s son. So much had Jeff admired Allen, the former Governor said, that he named his son after him — Felix. Allen proceeded to invite Felix on stage, where the two hiked up their pant legs to show they were both wearing cowboy boots.
Allen also gave me a shout-out by name. It caused Jeff’s face to pinch a bit, but still — very cool.
Tim Kaine, too, was quick, easy and very funny. If this was a subtle test of Allen and Kaine’s comedic skills, I’d call it a draw.
Then it was Jeff’s turn. He skewered each of roasters, of course, but one thing became abundantly clear from his timing: Jeff could have made a name for himself in the Borscht Belt.