The Best and Worst Jokes at the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast

Mayor Marty Walsh nailed it. Vice President Joe Biden, not so much.

They sing it every year, but when the head table broke into “M.T.A.” at the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast Sunday, it resonated, like an exorcism of Massachusetts’ wintry political woes.

Gov. Charlie Baker stood at the podium, singing about the T’s troubles and all the Charlies stranded on the trains this season. The governor tried to hand the mic to Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, but the host demurred, maybe not knowing the verses. City Council President Bill Linehan and Rep. Steve Lynch, on the other hand, sang with gusto. Mayor Marty Walsh sang along but stayed seated, looking down at his papers, as if editing one last joke.

Yes, this was a historic St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, thanks to Sen. Forry’s second year hosting and the inclusion of gay groups in Sunday’s parade. But space savers, snow mounds, and Boston 2024 Olympic salaries—not diversity—dominated the jokes this year. Speakers hit at least 13 of David Bernstein’s top 20 joke predictions, including a blizzard of one-liners from his top five.

The three-hour event was sometimes painful, awkward, and predictable. But the jokes hit just often enough.  Here’s who nailed it, who missed the mark, and who dared to be so bad that they triumphed in the end:

NAILED IT

Gov. Charlie Baker, Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, and the MBTA’s Beverly Scott:

An opening video showed the governor and Sen. Forry standing at a bus stop, in front of a snow mound, trying to get to the Convention Center and teasing each other about getting usurped by Nick Collins and Bill Linehan. At last, a Southie Shuttle pulled up, driven by outgoing MBTA head Beverly Scott.

“I have absolutely no reason to put you in the back of the bus now, do I?” Scott teased Baker.

Mayor Marty Walsh:

Live at the podium, the mayor ventured a joke about the big changes at the parade, shortened to Broadway only this year.

“Anyone can march,” he said, “but the route has to be straight.”

That got a mix of laughter and nervous “Ooohs”—had he successfully navigated the humor tightrope, edgy but not too mean?

The mayor really scored with his spoof video of his own blizzard press conferences. At first, they almost looked real, as he quoted himself telling Bostonians not to jump out their windows into snow banks. “This isn’t Loon Mountain,” he repeated.

Despairing for guidance, Walsh was visited by guest blizzard-fighters past, including Mike Dukakis.

“Marty, use the sweater,” Dukakis counseled, like Obi-Wan to young Luke. “The sweater is strong with you. The sweater will be with you always.” At last, holding a lantern amid a failing transmission, Walsh ceded power to the season’s Twitter hero, Boston Yeti 2015.

MISSED THE MARK

Vice President Joe Biden:

Sadly, we didn’t get Onion Biden, but Windbag Biden. The vice president, not realizing he was supposed to be funny, called in and droned on about his Irish great-grandparents, his mother telling him not to bow to the queen, and Marty Walsh needing to move to Wilmington, Delaware. Forry tried to cut him off, to no avail. The audience started to laugh, but only because the entire room knew Biden was failing, and he himself did not.

“I just hope he didn’t call collect!” quipped Lynch afterward. “Holy cow! That was painful!”

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito:

The lieutenant governor only delivered one line, and it was too obscure to work. Why, she asked, doesn’t anyone want to ride with the lieutenant governor to see the blizzard damage?

Crickets.

“OK see Tim Murray was a Lt Gov who said he was surveying storm damage when he crashed his car,” Bernstein tweeted. Thanks for explaining, David.

Sen. Ed Markey:

The U.S. Senator suffered from being probably the fifth person to hit the podium with a joke about Deval Patrick making $7,500 a day with Boston 2024, and the 10th or so to make a space-saver joke. A routine about Hillary Clinton emailing the Ayatollah Khamenei completely failed. And I will not even try to explain his pun on Charlie Baker’s name. “You shittin’ me?” one breakfast attendee exclaimed, walking out.

SO BAD THEY WERE GOOD

Rep. Steve Lynch:

“Did I tell you the one about Sluggo O’Toole? Well, you’re going to hear it again!”

Lynch hogged the mic for so long, telling bad Irish jokes, that he somehow punched through his jokes’ hokey-ness and got laughs anyway. Sluggo fell into a vat of Guinness and drowned, see, but he didn’t go quickly and quietly…

Suffolk Clerk of Courts Maura Doyle:

In a terrifying brown curly wig, Doyle danced a jig to the microphone and told an extremely off-color joke that imagined Gov. Baker, on an Aer Lingus flight, hitting on a beautiful young Irish lass who’s reading him fascinating sexual facts about Native Americans and Poles from a book. Doyle has the joke-Baker reply: “I’m Tonto Kowalski.”

I think it was a variation on Steven Wright’s old joke about Bucky Goldstein, the Jewish Cowboy, but no matter. Baker laughed and blushed appropriately. Weirdly, Doyle’s dare landed better than all of the morning’s more careful ethnic or “diversity” jokes.

Treasurer Deb Goldberg:

Goldberg fretted about following Doyle, then decided to match her. She started telling corny Jewish jokes, just to represent. “What’s a Jewish girl’s favorite position? Facing Bloomingdale’s,” she actually said.


Erick Trickey Erick Trickey, Boston Magazine bmagdigital+etrickey@gmail.com