About 1,000 communications lawyers and lobbyists crowded a Washington, D.C., hotel ballroom last Tuesday to sample the comedic skills of FCC chairman Kevin Martin, an annual ritual hosted by the Federal Communications Bar Association to raise money for scholarships and other charitable activities.
For the most part, Martin delivered, poking fun at opponents with barbed one-liners delivered with the aid of graphics and photos displayed on giant screens on the walls. A recurring gag, for example, was a photo of NASCAR driver David Gilliland’s wrecked Ford Fusion, the crash-prone vehicle that promoted the digital-TV transition in a $350,000 expenditure authorized by Martin.
Martin also got a laugh by saying, “I’ve often told everyone I learned my people skills” from Reed Hundt, a former FCC chairman not known for his personal warmth.
Martin, of course, took an obligatory shot at Comcast by recalling how the cable firm’s employees filled a Harvard Law School auditorium in February. That stunt barred consumer advocates from booing Comcast executive vice president David Cohen as he testified at the FCC’s hearing on Comcast’s broadband network-management practices.
After noting that the FCBA dinner wasn’t as hot a ticket as in years past, Martin remarked: “Unlike in other years, Comcast can’t even hire seat warmers not to laugh at my jokes.”
Martin has been silent on his next career move. People have guessed he might go into politics in his native North Carolina or try to get a job at Google or some other Silicon Valley entity his policies ended up pleasing.
Martin, however, had other suggestions, such as:
“I could become a wardrobe consultant to Janet Jackson.”
“I could become an FCC-sponsored NASCAR driver.”
“I could play Harry Potter in a Broadway musical.”
As for the Harry Potter lookalike punch line, Washington superlobbyist and former National Association of Broadcasters president Eddie Fritts, Martin’s warm-up act, set the stage earlier.
“When Kevin Martin first came to the FCC, people used to joke about how young he looked,” Fritts deadpanned. “But you can tell the stress is really getting to him and he is showing his age. This week he has had to shave twice.”
Martin tried to dispel the too-young-to-hold-power talk by pulling out a fifth of Jack Daniels and knocking back a shot.