NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Politicians and celebrities alike roasted and toasted former New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne Tuesday while celebrating his 90th birthday.
Gov. Chris Christie hosted the roast Tuesday night at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, N.J.
The event raised more than $100,000 for arts education programs at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
Several former governors, including Tom Kean and Jim Florio, were in attendance as well as comedian Joe Piscopo and television host Joy Behar.
Jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli opened the evening with his homage to the Garden State, “I Like Jersey Best.”
Christie, the master of ceremonies, was the butt of several jokes about the George Washington Bridge traffic jams scandal.
But when it came time for him to talk about Byrne, he used a light touch, extolling the former governor for standing up for his principles no matter the direction the political winds were blowing.
“They told me I was supposed to roast you tonight and wrote me some extraordinarily corny material,” Christie said. “My job tonight is to let everyone know how much I support you and love you and what an example you’ve been.”
The age quips were many, of course. The middle-age Behar cracked that “to him, I’m jailbait.” Comedian Reese Waters told Byrne, “I don’t mind that when you took the oath of office the Bible wasn’t completed yet.” Former Gov. Jim McGreevey joked that there’s no truth to the rumor that Byrne’s co-pilot during his wartime flight missions was Wilbur Wright.
Byrne told a few self-deprecating jokes before a birthday cake was brought out to Pizzarelli’s rendition of “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
“I survived 90 years. I can survive another half-hour,” Byrne said. “I think I did come out of this pretty well. I hope to have another similar dinner 10 years from now, and you’re all invited.”
Byrne, a Democrat, served as governor from 1974 to 1982. He has continued to be an active voice and has weighed in on issues including the recent governor’s race and controversies in Rutgers’ athletics department.
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