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Who is D.C.’s Funniest Journalist? It Could be Rich Edson

Posted by Tim Regan / Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Rich Edson

Rich Edson, Fox Business correspondent and sometimes-comedian/Photo courtesy of Fox Business

Tonight (Feb. 28), The Hamilton in D.C. hosts Commedia dell Media, where journalists from across the D.C. area will gather to demonstrate to their peers and the world that, contrary to popular belief, members of the media are allowed to tell jokes. Journalists from news establishments like Politico, NPR, CBS Radio and The Washington Post will take the stage in search of some laughs and to benefit Writopia and Reach Inc.. One of those journalists, Rich Edson of Fox Business, hopes to win the coveted championship just as he (kind of) did back in 2010. I sat down with Edson to discuss his comedy, his time as an intern at SNL and John Stossel’s real hair color.

Tim Regan: Rich, thanks for taking the time to talk with me. Let’s start by talking about your internship with SNL.

Rick Edson: Sure.

TR: So, when did that happen? And tell me a little bit about that experience.

RE: It was my junior year of college, and I always thought that I wanted to be a cast member, so, when given the opportunity to do an internship for the first time, you know where you want to work, right? So, I pestered the people there for the better part of three months, and basically to give you a little bit of a time frame, I sent a lot of faxes. It wasn’t that much e-mailing. Faxing resumes and cover letters. And eventually they called me back and offered me the internship. It was unbelievable. [It was] the first, second semester of my junior year of college, and they just throw you right in. You’re in the middle of watching rehearsals, watching band rehearsals, watching the script writing process…it was an absolutely phenomenal experience to be apart of, and it was such an institution, and it’s a lot of fun. So, my internship was pretty incredible. I would have gone back for a second semester, but they wanted to get other people involved. But it was Will Ferrel’s last hurrah, last season there, to give you a sense of who was on the cast. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Jimmy Fallon, all those guys. It was a really incredible and pretty wild experience.

TR: Is this the kind of intern experience where you run out and get coffee?

RE: Not necessarily coffee, but you’d certainly go pick up a meal, or a pack of cigarettes, or run around town to do stuff like that. A lot of administrative things. You wouldn’t think of Saturday Night Live as a place where you’d do a lot of paperwork, but it’s a business like anybody else. A lot of phone calls, making sure guests were taken care of. … We were also assigned to the cast parties, so, the show would start at 11:30, and as soon as it started, we were gone. We were in a car to some restaurant in Manhattan to set up the restaurant for the cast party.

TR: Now you’re a correspondent on Fox Business, but judging from your attendance at tonight’s event, I’d guess you still have a sense of humor.

RE: I hope.

TR: Does that sense of humor ever conflict with the kind of things that you as a journalist do?

RE: If you’re a street reporter, and you’re writing an article, and you try to be witty or fun … it’s sometimes a little more difficult to achieve if you’re doing print. In television, we do conversations. That’s what we’re trying to achieve on the air. … When appropriate, if there’s something funny or witty that you can come up with … there are openings for that. But there’s a real challenge, because … there’s a lot out there where it’s inappropriate. So it’s a matter of identifying.

TR: Have you ever been goofy at an inappropriate time?

RE: Not that I recall. … Whenever I’m not sure, I just play it straight.

TR: You co-won this event in, I believe, 2010, with a journalist from Military.com. How did that happen?

RE: They gave you a decibel score on the crowd reaction, and then there were three judges. And the judges voted two-to-one for him, I think, and I won the crowd reaction. … So I got the embarrassing photo op with the clown.

TR: Do you still have the photo?

RE: I don’t have it, but it may be Google-able. I might wish I hadn’t told you about that. But it’s probably online somewhere.

TR: (laughs) I’ll look for it.

RE: (laughs)

TR: This year, there will be representatives from NPR, CCTV, but the one powerhouse I noticed on there, and these guys are well-known for their great sense of humor, is C-SPAN [Libby Casey]. Do you think you have what it takes to out-comedy  them?

RE: (laughs) I’ve never met Libby. I watch her in the mornings … I don’t know! You know the journalists there, you’ve seen or read their work, but you have no idea how they’re going to deal with 5-7 minutes of get-up-there, be-funny, and get-off-the-stage.

TR: So, for all you know, she could be the next Tina Fey.

RE: She could have had her last day on Washington Journal and could be on her way to Saturday Night Live for all I know.

TR: What comedians inspire your style on stage? Who are some of your favorites?

RE: My routine is trying to play the crowd. … As far as favorite comedians are concerned, it’s a wide variety for a different number of purposes, but I like Brian Regan. I think it’s incredible that he can be as funny as he is without cursing repeatedly.

TR: So you’re more a fan of the banter type of comedy.

RE: Oh yeah, I’m a big fan of the guys who have rapid fire jokes … but I also like the setup. There’s an art to the setup. It’s a long-form improvisational comedy foundation. It’s a journey. You start the setup early, and you kind of go through a journey to get to the payoff in the end. I don’t have the time or the talent to do that tonight, but it’s something that I find funny and I respect a lot.

TR: Who would you say is the funniest journalist you know? Besides yourself.

RE: Well, we’ll see how tonight’s reaction goes. I might fully admit I’m not the funniest journalist I know. James Rosen from Fox News won a different competition a few years back, and James and I hang out a lot at Fox, so I would consider James the funniest journalist I know.

TR: If you could change careers and become a full-time comedian, would you ever consider doing that?

RE: I don’t know. I made a conscious decision when I was interning at Saturday Night Light that that kind of career would be great, but it would leave another side of me unfulfilled. … I really, really enjoy the serious reporting aspect of what I do. While I like to do the stand-up stuff, and while I did improv in college and sketch comedy in college … that’s something I can do for fun. But what I want to do for a career, what I currently do is incredibly professionally fulfilling. … To be about two-hundred from the President of the United States when he’s going through an  inauguration. To be on the campaign trail. To fly around the world to watch the President as he meets with foreign leaders … that’s a pretty incredible and unique window to history that I have, and it’s something that’s not easy to give up.

TR: Well, don’t forget, Jimmy Fallon gets to hang out with the First Lady.

RE: That’s true! (laughs)

TR: I have one last question that’s always bugged me, and I’ve spent many sleepless nights thinking about this. What is John Stossel’s real hair color?

RE: Hmm. I don’t know. I just assumed whatever he’s got.

TR: I’ll just have to take that at face value, then. Rich, thanks for talking with me, and I hope you do well tonight.

RE: I really appreciate it. Thanks for including me. It’s a real honor and a pleasure.

This interview was edited for clarity and formatting.

If you’re looking for tickets to tonight’s (Feb. 28) Commedia dell Media, they will be sold at the door at The Hamilton in D.C. for $30. Doors open at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m..

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