In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day proper, pictured to the right is one more photo from yesterday’s parade in South Boston. Yes, those are hats styled after mugs of beer — the finest example of millinery for the masses that I have ever seen. Please forgive the mocking tone, but it’s hard for me to discuss hats styled after mugs of beer without getting all highbrow.
Yesterday, before heading to the parade in South Boston to mingle with people wearing beer hats, local and state politicians gathered for the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast. The eggs, sausage, and white pudding are incidental; it’s really a political ‘roast’ where participants show off their sense of humor by making speeches and singing songs featuring mild zingers aimed at their political peers. Pointed remarks at others are usually tempered with self-deprecating put-downs. The event is just funny and suave enough to arouse suspicion that armies of comedians, image consultants, and politically-astute focus groups are somehow involved, resulting in the political equivalent of a Starbucks Breakfast sandwich.
Back when Massachusetts was ruled by a contingent of Irish politicians, the breakfast was a forum for artful teasing, a major facet of Irish humor. Massachusetts politics has since diversified to include numerous Italians, blacks, whites of indeterminable identity, and even a Mormon, so the clubby, relaxed feeling of the breakfast has been lost. It now comes across as stilted and painful for everyone involved. When it was former Governor Mitt Romney’s turn at the 2005 breakfast, he took a peremptory stance by rapidly exhausting an array of Mormon jokes before anyone else could: “Saying he is against gay marriage, Romney said that, as a Mormon, he believes ‘marriage should be between a man and a woman. And a woman. And a woman’”.
But (no surprise) Mitt really did not get the point: The ribbing and sparring is meant to bolster support for one’s political agenda, not make oneself the horse’s ass of a joke. According to the Boston Herald this year “most of the humor was focused on local issues, with the hot-button casino controversy taking center stage… After pro-casino Governor Deval Patrick sang the merits of his proposal, Sal DiMasi, the powerful House speaker who’s against allowing them in, reminded him that when it comes to gambling, ‘The House always wins’”.
Perhaps the burden of being inoffensive and hilarious is too heavy for the politicians in the age of YouTube, because this year, local comedian Steve Sweeney delivered a few jokes seeped in local humor. Spoofing the presidential candidates, Sweeney joked “‘Change, change, change, we want change.’ These guys are starting to sound like homeless people on Boylston Street.” Ha ha. I’m glad that someone has the balls to stick it to the city’s homeless at the Saint Patrick’s Day breakfast.