America's Funniest Mayor Might Be Norm

Is Norm Rice the funniest mayor in America? We'll find out tonight.

Along with Mayors Kurt Schmoke of Baltimore and Sharpe James of Newark, N.J., Seattle's mayor will compete for the title during HBO's "Comic Relief VII" benefit for the homeless, which airs at 9 p.m.

The three mayors were selected from nine who submitted tapes solicited by the program.

Rice, who once acted in community theater, is no stranger to performing, says aide Rebecca Hale. "He does a pretty good Jack Kennedy, a hilarious Walter Brennan and a voice that makes it sound like he's talking underwater," she said, adding that she hasn't seen Rice's edited tape and isn't sure what will be shown.

An HBO spokesman said the underwater voice truly set Rice apart from the competition and will likely be the segment that's aired.

That means the viewing public likely won't hear another joke Rice told on his entry tape: Seattle is so polite that when Yankee fans threw garbage on the field during the baseball playoffs, Seattle fans sorted it for recycling.

Rice earned $250 for homeless-children's programs simply by applying and another $1,000 for being selected as a finalist. Tonight's winner, selected by audience members at the theater in Los Angeles, will earn a $7,500 check for charitable programs in his city.

The five-hour show will be hosted by Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams, and includes a lineup of dozens of other performers.

Most cable customers will be able to see the show even if they aren't HBO subscribers because HBO is making it available on an "open link" to cable systems. Viacom customers will find it on channel 8 or 2; TCI customers will see it on channel 2 or 23.