When Steve Martin was beginning to gain national prominence as a stand-up comic in the 1970s, he used to perform what he called the "IRS routine."

He'd tell the audience not to file their taxes and later, when the inevitable audit would come, he suggested telling the investigators the reason you didn't file was simple, "I forgot!"

Like many of Martin's early routines, the humor factor was 99.9 percent based on absurdity.

Now, 30 years later, in lieu of Steve Martin, we have Jeffrey Skilling, the former chief executive at bankrupt energy trader Enron.

No, Skilling is not a closet comedian. In fact, from what I've seen and read about him, he's probably light years away from even being funny. Not exactly the guy you'd want to emcee a celebrity roast.

But nevertheless, Skilling seems to have diligently studied Martin's philosophy of explanations, especially when he's wedged squarely in the vise of a Senate hearing.

Last week, Skilling told lawmakers he relied on assurances from Enron's auditor Andersen that the now-infamous off-the-books partnerships that were backed with Enron stock, were legitimate.

"I'm not an accountant," he proclaimed in his best Martinesque impression. Skilling, who despite earning an MBA from Harvard and forging a reputation as a hands-on manager who regularly worked long hours, feigned ignorance to the machinations of Enron's balance sheet and external audits.

"I'm not an accountant."

Despite testimony to the contrary by former Enron vice president and whistleblower Sherron Watkins, who maintained that as chief executive, Skilling had to be aware of the problems that were impacting the company, Skilling, coolly repeated his assertions that although the resulting fallout was disastrous, he was not one of the perpetrators. He simply relied on the advice of Andersen's auditors.

"I'm not an accountant."

Skilling did however, manage to lay blame at the feet of the banks who, he claimed, had they just kept lending the company billions when it was teetering, a far different scenario would have unfolded.

"I'm not an accountant."

No, he's not an accountant, but he was chief executive of the company that ultimately evolved to the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.

And thus far, the only venues where Skilling's answers would play to an appreciative audience, are Caroline's or The Comedy Store.


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