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Chicago Comedy Troupe Stages Fundraiser for Paul Simon

September 15, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe made politics a laughing matter at a presidential campaign fund-raiser for Sen. Paul Simon, even directing a barb or two at the candidate himself.

″I think of Paul Simon as the red, white and blue bowtie wrapped around the red neck of American conscience,″ comic Aaron Freeman said, playing the role of the Rev. Jesse Jackson in one of the sketches Monday night.

About 400 people who paid $125 each to see the improvisational team’s irreverent act guffawed when the comics lampooned Democratic front-runner Gary Hart’s withdrawal from the campaign amid questions about his relationship with Miami model Donna Rice.

″I’m Paul Simon,″ singer-guitarist Ron West intoned in the voice of Simon, an Illinois Democrat. ″I’m running for president in the campaign year of 1988. And I would like to thank a very special gal who’s made me a viable candidate.

″Thank you, Donna Rice. ... You’re the best friend Paul Simon ever had.″

While Democrats were the butt of some jokes, most were aimed at the Reagan administration, such as a sketch in which two aides debated whether they should interrupt the president: ″Even if we do wake him up, he probably won’t make a decision anyway.″

Comedian Stephen Assad later assumed the role of President Reagan.

″It’s an awesome and terrible responsibility to be in charge of America’s nuclear and conventional arsenals and to know the difference,″ he said. ″And believe me, nobody, but nobody, carries these awesome burdens more lightly than I do. ... We see SDI (the Strategic Defense Initiative) not as a bargaining chip but as it was truly designed to be: a peace shield for the entire free world. Or at least the parts that we like best.″

On the Iran-Contra affair, he quipped:

″We did what we thought was morally right. I can assure you, we’ll never, ever do that again. ... We feel very secure in handing over the ongoing investigation to Attorney General Edwin Meese. Ed is a patriot - and a firm believer in much of the Constitution.″

The troupe ended their 45-minute show with a musical sendup of the Supreme Court, singing in the style of the Supremes.

″It was not the usual kind of political event,″ Simon said at a reception after the show. ″But I think everybody enjoyed it.″

Simon introduced the troupe from his home state, but made it a point to avoid telling any jokes.

″I like to think I have a reasonably good sense of humor,″ Simon said. ″But some people are good at one thing, some are good at another and humor is not my area of strength.

″I have about three standard jokes that work, and that’s it.″