The colorful jokes of Rick Barry, the playful teasing of civic leaders, and a big, fuzzy, green rabbit named Patrick O'Hare can mean only one thing: the Exchange Club's annual St. Patrick's Day Breakfast to benefit child abuse prevention programs.
Nearly 300 people attended the breakfast at DiBurro's Tuesday morning to hear music by Stormy Winds and see the traditional Barry/bunny banter between the master of ceremonies and a 6-foot-tall rabbit.
The event was sponsored by Pentucket Medical Associates, Trinity EMS, Pentucket Bank and the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce.
Local and state politicians were the target of jokes but only Mayor James Fiorentini was allowed to tell a couple of jokes — most at Barry's expense.
State Sen. Steven Baddour was named King of the Breakfast in lieu of a knighthood like the one bestowed recently on U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Here are the morning's highlights:
Loudest applause: "The governor isn't here today. He's up at Haffner's in Plaistow, getting gas," said Barry, an allusion to Gov. Deval Patrick's unpopular proposal to raise the state's gasoline tax by 17 cents.
Mayor's best joke: "I want to thank Rick Barry, who works for the best funeral home in the city ... Linehan."
The rabbit's best line: "It's Captain Kangaroo, I didn't realize," followed by murmurs at table after table concurring that Rick Barry did, indeed, resemble the children's show host.
The rabbit's worst line: "I'm tracking all the Canadian geese at the Haverhill Country Club. They do all the jobs that the domestic geese don't want to do."
The most politically topical line: "The Woolworth Building," said in unison, identified as the Haverhill location most likely to become a casino if lawmakers vote to expand legalized gambling in Massachusetts.
State Rep. Brian Dempsey, who escaped the breakfast with very little ribbing from the podium, was quick to make his exit at the end of the program.
"Whew," he said, looking back to make sure there wasn't one last joke coming his way. "That wasn't bad."