Much like your tipsy uncle who decides to use the dinner table at Thanksgiving Dinner as his bully pulpit to make a series of off-colour remarks about who he thinks is ruining the country this year, Green Party leader Elizabeth May used the hobnob-y Parliamentary Press Gallery Dinner on Saturday to deliver a meandering rant about her hips, penis envy, and Omar Khadr.
The nine-minute speech, delivered to the annual black-tie piss-up for Canadian political journalists, began with a shout-out to Canada's First Nations, swerved into a strange attempted takedown of Stephen Harper, then an unnecessarily long bit about her artificial hip, morphed into uncomfortable meandering about Justin Trudeau's hair, followed by an off-putting tribute to Freud, and capped off with—in her own words—a "deranged" coup de grâce Omar Khadr tribute.
The Press Gallery Dinner used to be an off-the-record trainwreck where party leaders, including the prime minister, would show up to get loaded drunk and take potshots at their media tormentors without fear of their intoxicated rants ending up in a newspaper.
In recent years, however, since the dinner has gone back on the record—thanks, Twitter—leaders have largely just been reading relatively tame speeches written by a committee of their press flacks.
So about three minutes into May's speech, everybody was caught between nervous excitement for something unscripted and disastrous, and outright awkwardness and empathy for watching someone bomb so terribly.
By minute seven, where May brought out a long-winded, confusing, and jaw-dropping Freud joke—which was sort-of a set up for her to get to a "debate envy" joke—the crowd was fidgeting in their chairs.
"That whole sexual maturation thing on the Freudian scale, that we go from the oral—I'm not going to eat the mic," May improvised, looking down at the two microphones that I-guess-sort-of look like penises. "To the anal—I don't even want to think of it—to the genital."
It was pretty much at that point that Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, heels off, decided that she would do the humane thing and try to take this speech out behind the woodshed.
"Do you guys ever wake up with old theme songs from former black and white TV shows that you never thought your kids would never see, and they're running through your head? Like every now and then, I wake up thinking—" At this point, May spotted Raitt. "Lisa, you've got to wait."
May then pulled out her Blackberry, and the theme song from Welcome Back, Kotter came on. And, considering that Omar Khadr had been released earlier that day, everyone knew where this bit was going. Like watching a clown car catch fire with its passengers still inside, you either had to bury your face in your hands, or you couldn't look away.
Raitt made a few "help me" faces to the crowd as May refused to be swept offstage.
"Do you wonder why I'm thinking about this?" May asked, obviously rhetorically.
"We do wonder why you're thinking that, Liz, but—" Raitt tried, to no avail.
"Welcome back Omar Khadr! You're home!"
At this point, Raitt actually tried to physically drag May off the stage, as she grabbed the podium like a child throwing a temper tantrum.
Then May dropped the big one:
"Omar Khadr, you have more class than this whole fucking cabinet."
At that point, giving up, May went arm-in-arm offstage with Raitt—a member of the cabinet that she just said had less class than a former child soldier—leaving everyone in the room to collect their jaws from the floor.
In the interim, certain rebellious commentators have been convinced of a broad media conspiracy to hide May's comments. Of course, the story has been reported in dozens of outlets, was discussed endlessly on Sunday's political talk shows, and graced the front page of Monday's Metro Ottawa.
May has since apologized for the whole thing, blaming jet lag and a botched attempt at humour.
Raitt, meanwhile, should expect flowers.
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