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Charlie Crist flexes comedy chops before high-profile crowd in Washington

Charlie Crist, shown here at an event in Miami on Friday, spoke Saturday night at the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, D.C.
Charlie Crist, shown here at an event in Miami on Friday, spoke Saturday night at the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, D.C.
Published Mar. 9, 2014

We knew already that Charlie Crist could convincingly play a Republican or Democrat or independent, depending on the day.

On Saturday, we learned he can also be a darned good stand up comic.

"I'm a guy with a healthy ego. But every time my ego gets a little out of control my wife reminds me that John McCain considered me and Sarah Palin for vice president and decided Sarah was more qualified," Crist told a white tie crowd gathered in Washington, D.C., for the 129th anniversary dinner of the Gridiron Club and Foundation Saturday night.

Florida's former Republican governor and current Democratic gubernatorial front-runner was the dinner's Democratic representative, Texas Sen. Ted. Cruz represented Republicans and Secretary of State John Kerry spoke for the White House before more than 600 guests, including Washington journalists, ambassadors, White House officials, military leaders and a few celebrities, such as Stephen Colbert and Martina Navratilova.

"I know what you're thinking: 'Why Charlie Crist?' Simple: The Gridiron wanted someone of color," quipped the ever-tanned St. Petersburg resident. "It's an honor for me to have been invited to this legendary event, one that has such a great tradition. The Gridiron always pokes fun at candidates from both parties. You could have saved time and just invited me."

Crist has showed off his skills as humorist before at Tallahassee's annual Capitol Press Skits, but Saturday night was a far higher profile audience. The Gridiron Club allows no live tweeting, let alone cameras, inside its annual dinner, but the Tampa Bay Times obtained a draft of Crist's remarks.

People often question what Crist stands for, so he offered some explanation of his beliefs:

"I believe in President Obama and I'm not going to say anything bad about him for two reasons. I like him and he has drones. ... For some (the goal) is to change America for the better. For Paul Ryan, that goal was to bench press 275. I believe that if something is important, you should put it in writing. Just don't let Edward Snowden near it. I believe in freedom of speech. Even if that speech is reading Dr. Seuss in front of Congress, Ted (Cruz). I believe that John Dingell's retirement opens up a chance for young members to move up in the ranks – young upstarts like John Conyers and Charlie Rangel. I believe that the GOP presidential campaign will come down to Chris Christie versus Ted Cruz. They represent the two wings of the GOP — the shutdown bridges faction versus the shutdown the entire government faction. I believe that there is still a big tent in the GOP. With room for far right conservatives like Rand Paul and extreme liberals like Marco Rubio. And most of all I believe that government should care for those struggling to get by, those without hope — print reporters."

Crist even alluded to the old whispers that he might be gay.

"I admit to the rumor going around about me for years, for I did in fact have a relationship with a man — a loving relationship, a relationship that some people objected to..."

And up popped the now-famous picture of then-Republican Gov. Crist embracing President Obama.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at