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The Hill’s Class Clowns

Kate Taylor didn’t always intend to be funny.

Over time, funny things just seemed to happen to her, like that one time when a homeless person punched her.

OK, so you have to hear her tell it.

And starting tonight at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse, you can. Taylor, a staffer for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), is one of three full-time Senate staffers brave enough to enter the Funniest Fed competition, which will see 32 government workers from the D.C. area battling it out in a multi-week stand-up comedy battle.

Taylor will hit the stage tonight, while fellow staffers Scott Muschett, who works as a Doorkeeper for the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, and John Quirk, who works for the Senate Armed Services Committee, are set to perform Sept. 30.

Quirk decided to enter the competition, he said, because “I’ve already been voted the best singer in my shower and the best ping-pong player in my apartment.— And nothing will be off-limits, Quirk insists, “as long as it’s funny.—

“For example, a little while ago I e-mailed the Washington Nationals about making the fourth-inning giant mascot presidents’ race more interesting,— he recalled. “I think halfway through they should let out a giant John Wilkes Booth mascot to chase Lincoln. I haven’t gotten an e-mail back yet,— he noted.

Quirk has been doing stand-up for about a year and a half, emceeing an open-mic night in Arlington on Wednesdays and even taking part in a USO show at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, relating to the troops with his personal experience in the Army in Iraq.

Quirk didn’t divulge too many secrets about his Funniest Fed routine but did hint that he’d hit on some political material. “And hopefully will also keep my job,— he said.

“I’ve been trying to run some of my stuff by [Vice President Joseph] Biden but he’s never on Facebook anymore,— he joked.

Muschett has even more stand-up experience, as he has performed in a number of comedy clubs over the years and even is a veteran of the Funniest Fed competition, having made it to the semifinals in 2007.

This year, he’s aiming to win. “Our political environment gives me Tolstoy volumes of great material for my comedy,— he said, adding that he plans to tackle the “flaws of both parties.— And Muschett said his overall goal is “to combat political correctness through increased notoriety.—

“By the way, thanks for writing this about me,— he joked.

But Taylor is entering the competition as a stand-up rookie. She was urged to enter by staffers who work in the office of the Senate librarian, who found her entertaining whenever she’d contact them as part of her job, she said.

Taylor isn’t a complete rookie to comedy, however. She maintains a blog chronicling her misadventures as a young woman from the Utah suburbs adjusting to life on the mean streets of big-city Washington. Her stories, which she plans to share on stage, range from chaotic moments on the Metro to anything related to sports (of which she is clueless). Taylor’s naiveté with cars is another likely topic, since she always seems to have car trouble — funny in itself, considering her dad is a pro when it comes to fixing automobiles.

“Whenever I have car problems in D.C., I always end up calling him,— she says. “And it always ends up being something ridiculous.—

Taylor is preparing for the competition by honing her routine in front of friends, family and her co-workers, who she noted “have to put up with me every day.—

“Stand-up is kind of a different craft,— she said. “It’s just been fun to explore that and make people laugh.—

Many of Taylor’s co-workers, those staffers in the Senate librarian’s office and “anybody I can talk into coming— will cheer Taylor on at the competition, she said. But Hatch won’t be attending — yet, anyway.

“He wished me luck. He thinks it’s funny,— she said. “So, hopefully if I make it to the finals, he’ll be able to attend.—

With his debut still a few weeks away, Quirk has focused on his training by “working out with my irony trainer— and listening to the Black Eyed Peas. (“Fergie is by far the hottest looking catfish I’ve ever seen,— he said.)

“I’ve also written down all my material … on flashcards and carry them with me everywhere I go in my fanny pack,— he said.

For his part, Muschett has written a slew of new material for the competition, “so much in fact I don’t know which to use.—

“I am more nervous than my Republican friends locked inside a room full of scientists and my Democrats locked in a room full of authentic convictions combined,— Muschett added. “Very excited, though, because this will be fun.—

After three weeks of comedy, the competitors will be narrowed down, with the semifinalists taking the stage on Oct. 7. The finals will be held Oct. 23, with comedian Will Durst as the host.

Aside from laughs, the competition also will help a good cause, according to organizer Naomi Johnson. Twenty percent of the event’s proceeds will benefit the Fisher House Foundation, which provides homes to family members whose loved ones have been injured while serving in the military.

Tickets for the first round of the contest cost $10 and are available online at arlingtoncinemadrafthouse.com.

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