he's got jokes

Chuck Schumer and Manhattan D.A. Vance Battle for Corny Pun Supremacy

Catskills comedians Schumer, left, and Vance, right. Photo: Getty Images, Corbis

It can’t be easy being an elected official in New York. Day in, day out, our politicians are subjected to both the mind-numbing tedium of governmental bureaucracy and the anxiety associated with running a huge, messed-up city. Which may be why, in times of trouble, two of the city’s preeminent political figures – Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and Senator Chuck Schumer – have turned to Catskills-level wordplay.

This week was big on the yuk-yuk front. D.A. Vance had the once-in-a-career chance to announce he had busted a guy who allegedly stole a Salvador Dalí painting from a gallery on the Upper East Side (“It was almost surreal how this theft was committed,” he said), and Schumer went on a legendary, pun-filled riff about an illegal Chinese honey-smuggling ring.

The two pols have slightly different humor styles. D.A. Vance prefers the single bit of topical wordplay inserted in the middle of an otherwise serious legal announcement. For example:

On the arrest of a former bookkeeper at sushi restaurant Masa, who was caught stealing money from the till:

This was a raw deal for a hot restaurant. This defendant is charged with cooking the books for more than a year at one of the top dining establishments in the country.”

On the 2011 arrest of a Girl Scout finance director for theft:

Nonprofits are not personal cookie jars. But that is how the defendant is charged with treating the accounts of the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York.”

On the 2011 sentencing of Judy and Joseph Del Galdo for stealing $16 million from a Soho textile company:

This mother-son duo made it their family business to steal millions of dollars and squander the funds on jets, yachts, cars, and other luxury items. This sentence and restitution order will help make the victims whole.”

Sen. Schumer, on the other hand, tends to eschew the single witticism in favor of a machine-gun fusillade of groaners. Here is what he said this week about the Chinese honey-smuggling ring:

This successful sting operation is sure to be a buzz kill for would-be honey smugglers. For too long, foreign smuggling of this product has created a sticky situation for domestic honey producers. We need a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to honey laundering.”

And here’s how Schumer faced down Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, who renounced his American citizenship last year to avoid paying millions of dollars in taxes:

Mr. Saverin has decided to ‘defriend’ the United States of America just to avoid paying his taxes … Senator Casey and I have a status update for him: pay your taxes in full.”

D.A. Vance’s spokeswoman told Daily Intelligencer that the D.A. doesn’t just throw around puns wantonly; he uses them “sparingly,” and reserves them for non-violent cases. She added: “When you look at the hundreds of statements he makes each year with horrific statements like …  ‘This was a brutal and sadistic crime, where [the defendant] bludgeoned, choked, and mutilated his victim before murdering him,’ you can understand why he likes to say something that makes readers smile.”

Sen. Schumer has no such excuse, and is just an irrepressible cornball.

Schumer Battles Vance for Pun Supremacy