Edward Koch stepping out of the mouth of a man-eating plant. Michael Bloomberg wearing a harness and flying 20 feet in the air.
The annual Inner Circle, the city news media’s answer to the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, gives mayors a chance to let their hair down and poke fun at both themselves and the city they lead. Their appearances, which attempt to earn goodwill with the reporters who cover them, also can help shape their image in the public eye.
“At a time when it is hard to break through the 24-hour media cycle, this is one way to do it and to do it in a way that is positive and self-effacing,” said Jeanne Zaino, political science professor at Iona College. It will give new Mayor Bill de Blasio chance to reach a broader and different audience in a positive way.”
Saturday’s show, titled “Stuck With de Bill,” features a two-act reporters’ production followed by the mayor’s rebuttal show. It will mark de Blasio’s debut and comes at a time when the mayor could use a good headline.
But de Blasio seems game to make a good impression. The mayor, who frequently cracks jokes at public events — to varying levels of success — released a video this week in which he “trains” for the performance. In the short video, de Blasio pretends to growl like an animal and even uses a ventriloquist’s dummy to poke fun at an incident when he was caught not using his hands to eat his city’s signature dish.
“He eats pizza with a knife and fork and they call me a dummy?” de Blasio has the doll say, badly.
The show is always filled with jokes and a parody of songs that make fun of current events.
“There are a lot of crazy moments, including a member who once was so tipsy on stage he fell off the stage, without injury,” said Henry Goldman, a reporter at Bloomberg News and vice president of the Inner Circle.
This year’s show pokes fun at de Blasio’s efforts to combat income inequality by portraying him as a vigilante trying to steal from the rich to give to the poor.
But the spotlight is inevitably stolen by the mayor’s response.
Bloomberg, known for his buttoned-up persona, surprisingly drew big laughs on stage every year. He would dress in absurd costumes, and his deadpan performance meshed nicely with the silliness erupting around him.
“It will be interesting to see how much de Blasio pokes fun at himself Saturday night,” Goldman said. “To the extent he’s able to laugh at himself, he’s going to have a very successful night.”