Every year, the Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA) holds an annual banquet event as a fundraiser for the FCBA Foundation, which does good works like giving kids scholarships and so forth. The highlight of this is a humorous speech/video presentation by whoever is Chairman of the FCC, mocking himself, fellow commissioners and the members of the communications bar. It is similar to the White House Press Corps dinner, with the Chair giving a speech similar to that of the President. (The differences are (a) no one roasts the Chairman the way a professional comedian roasts the President, and (b) no one is interested in televising it.
As you might expect, it is considered a big deal to get mentioned, even as the butt of a joke, because it is a status thing. After all, for the Communications Bar to understand why it is funny, you have to be pretty well known.
This year, Tom Wheeler and the crew that helps him put it together did an excellent job, IMHO. First there was a running gag of whenever Wheeler would point out something annoying, he would wait a beat and say "X blames Title II." So, for example, "How many of you here are Uber users? Well you'll be pleased to know, Uber is here, and they have instituted surge pricing to begin after my speech ends." (Pause) "Michael Powell blames Title II."
Then there are jokes about the FCC. "So this year, Mets superfan Gigi B. Sohn and Royals superfan Commissioner Pai had a side wager. If the Royals won, Gigi would bring Pai a gift basket from Zabars. If the Mets won, Commissioner Pai would keep his statements down to 5 minutes." (pause) "Damn you, Mets!"
Then there is the self-depreciating humor. "Our spectrum auction made $41 billion dollars. I figured Congress wouldn't mind my keeping a little bit of that to fix things up around the FCC, so we had the furniture re-upholstered." Flash to picture of FCC furniture with the Ohio State logo (Wheeler is an alumn). "And I got myself a fancy new office chair." Flash to picture of Wheeler photoshopped onto Game of Thrones chair of swords.
There was a running gag about fantasy sports leagues, which culminated in a video for Wheeler's new VC investment, "Fantasy CBA." You create fantasy picks of telecom lobbyists and outcomes. Various notables appeared to give endorsements. Michael Powell, Chair of NCTA: "I bet on the FCC to win oral argument (on Net Neutrality) tomorrow. Now whatever happens, I'm a winner." Andrew Schwartzman: "I was resentful when Marvin Ammori announced he was working for Charter to get the Charter/TWC deal approved. But now that he's on my Fantasy CBA Team I say 'Make It Rain, Marvin! Make it rain!'" (There were others, but memory fails me.)
As the concluding monologue, Wheeler says: "We all have a big oral argument tomorrow, so I'd like to finish with a bedtime story." Folks whip out a classic leather drawing room chair, a fake fire place and antique looking globe, and wheeler puts on a smoking jacket to look like one of your classic videos. He opens large prop book, and begins:
"Twas the night before oral argument . . ."
I can't remember the rest from memory. But the plot is that FCC General Counsel, Jonathan Sallet, is anxious and can't fall asleep, worrying about the big argument. When suddenly, outside is a noise. Sallet looks out to see a sleigh with 8 mighty reindeer. The mysterious figure of the driver calls them out by name: On Markey, On Eshoo, on Free Press and Etsy! (I forget the names of the other reindeer).
"When down the chimney the sleigh driver fell.
That unstoppable force -- HAROLD FELD."
I drop my sack, stroke my beard (which Wheeler was gracious enough to say "was not white") and fling out the stacks of cases and cites. I lay out
the arguments all in a line. So Jon Sallet will know everything will be fine.
Then I climb back out the chimney. With Wheeler concluding with something like (from memory):
"So my friends on the Left, my friends on the Right.
I wish you good bye, and to all a good night.
Tomorrow we'll argue, we'll have a good fight.
And the Right will learn this time, the Left is in the right!"
And no, I did not know this was coming. I was told "make sure you stick around to the end," so I figured I would get a mention. But I had no idea I would get a starring role in the final monologue!
I told Wheeler afterwards: "I haven't been this simultaneously pleased and embarrassed in public since my Bar Mitzvah."
I was totally on Cloud 9. And I got a lot of congratulations from my friends, colleagues, frenemies and opposite numbers. (Some through gritted teeth, which is always a delightful flavor enhancer.) And, as I pointed out to one or two -- "It's always better to drive the sleigh than be the reindeer."
It was huge. My thanks to Chairman Wheeler and everyone on his team who wrote and approved the script.
No off to oral argument in Net Neutrality. Ho! Ho! Ho!