Utah’s Gov. Spencer Cox reportedly brought the house down with his speech at the Gridiron Club dinner Saturday night, where he poked fun at himself, his party, Biden and the Democrats — and Utah.

“This year’s Republican speaker, Cox, was a perfect fit for the usual fare of self-effacing Gridiron jokes, playing the part of the naive rube who suddenly finds himself in tails and a white bow tie,” a Washington Post reporter wrote.

The Post said attendees at the annual dinner responded with “laughter and cheers and applause,” on top of a little table pounding. “When he was done, Biden was one of the first on his feet for the standing O.”

The Gridiron Club is a journalistic organization in Washington, D.C., with national media outlets and correspondents as members. It hosts an annual white tie dinner — a tradition that started in the 1880s — where politicians and journalists roast themselves and one another.

Cox was the designated Republican speaker at this year’s dinner. Other speakers included President Joe Biden, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, and Dan Balz, a correspondent for The Washington Post and Gridiron Club president.

Cox started his speech by joking about being a stand-in for Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

“You probably have no idea who I am. You see, I was the second choice for tonight’s Republican speaker, but don’t worry; my friends call me, ‘Discount Glenn Youngkin.’ Gov. Youngkin is 6′5″, handsome, played college basketball, went to Harvard, and is worth $300 million. So we’re basically twins. In a Schwarzenegger/DeVito sort of way,” he said.

Later, after joking about how much it would cost to pay a speechwriter for the night’s event — including a dig at “Bidenomics” — Cox said, “I apologize that you’re stuck with me writing my own material. The good news is that I practiced all my jokes in Utah, in front of sober people, so I should be much funnier tonight.”

Cox managed to make the audience laugh while telling jokes about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s memory lapses, Biden’s age, Congress, Tucker Carlson and the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots.

The ‘fancy part of Utah’

Cox poked a little fun at himself, and his audience, while talking about his home state and his rural upbringing.

“I am from the great state of Utah. Oh, I’m sorry. I should explain. Utah is a state between Tyson’s Corner and California.”

“Each year, Utah is ranked as the most charitable state in the nation. The best state to start a business, the best state for upward mobility. U.S. News just named us the best economy AND the best state overall. ...

“I’m sure some of you have traveled to Utah. Places like Park City to ski or the Sundance Film Festival. That’s fancy Utah. Like if Jon Huntsman or Mitt Romney were a city. I want to be clear that I’m from a different part of Utah.”

Jan. 6 joke

Cox poked fun at his rural upbringing, and he somehow managed to make the room laugh at a joke about the Capitol riots on Jan. 6, 2021.

“It really is such an honor to be at the famed Gridiron dinner. You see, they usually don’t let farm kids like me into rooms like this … unless you count Jan. 6. And even then we had to really push and shove our way in.

“Here in D.C., you say you smoked, but didn’t inhale. Where I’m from people say they went to the rally, but didn’t go inside.”

A defense of Mitt Romney?

Cox took a little dig at the media over their treatment of Utah Sen. Mitt Romney when he ran for president in 2012.

“And finally, as we approach another election, I want to thank the media in this room for standing up for democracy and protecting us from a power-hungry, narcissistic, misogynist. I mean, can you imagine how terrible our country would be right now if we had elected Mitt Romney in 2012?

“You deserve a lot of credit for saving us from binders full of women, dogs strapped on top of cars, and … well, that’s just 47% of the things I can remember you telling us about Mitt Romney.

“I mean, the nerve of that guy! Russia as our greatest adversary. Pft. We all know that our greatest adversary is Taylor Swift.”

‘In a world full of arsonists, we desperately need some architects’

In the last moments of his speech, Cox took the opportunity to speak about his “Disagree Better” initiative, and his hopes that political leaders and journalists can build the nation up instead of tearing it down. “In a world full of arsonists, we desperately need some architects,” he said.

“The good news is that there is a market for something different. Seventy percent of Americans — the exhausted majority — hate what is happening in politics and media today. It’s not too late to find our better angels,” Cox said. “I hope that we, as politicians, and you, as journalists, can find within ourselves more of that precious quality of humility — as Judge Learned Hand said, ‘The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.’”

Cox’s full remarks as prepared:

Thank you for having me tonight. My name is Spencer Cox and I’m the Republican governor of Utah. And I probably shouldn’t be here. I’m so embarrassed. Apparently I just spent an hour talking to the prime minister of Ireland and the whole time I thought it was Doug Emhoff.

You probably have no idea who I am. You see, I was the second choice for tonight’s Republican speaker, but don’t worry; my friends call me, “Discount Glenn Youngkin.”

Gov. Youngkin is 6′5″, handsome, played college basketball, went to Harvard, and is worth $300 million. So we’re basically twins. In a Schwarzenegger/DeVito sort of way.

I was super worried when Gov. Youngkin canceled since no one has seen him for several weeks. But he texted to tell me that everything is fine. He’s just out hiking the Appalachian Trail.

In fact, to prove he’s OK, he sent me a picture with someone named Kate Middleton (it sounds like you guys know her), but it looks like it’s been slightly edited. Mark Sanford was definitely photoshopped out.

I’m just so nervous to be in a room full of so many important people … that I’ve never heard of. And you all look so beautiful and trim. In fact, I think I’m catching some second-hand Ozempic up here.

But it was a huge relief when I learned that my fellow Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would be speaking, too. I have a great deal of respect for her. I’m just grateful I live in a state where my constituents are slightly less kidnappy.

And listen, unlike the president and Congress, she’s been great on the border. Although I am getting a little tired of her bussing all those Canadians to Utah. The last thing we need is to make Utah MORE polite.

So yes. I am from the great state of Utah. Oh, I’m sorry. I should explain. Utah is a state between Tyson’s Corner and California.

Each year, Utah is ranked as the most charitable state in the nation. The best state to start a business, the best state for upward mobility. U.S. News just named us the best economy AND the best state overall! But we are probably best known as the home of the World Champion Utah Jazz, back-to-back winners over Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls … at least that WOULD have been true if Mike Pence had had the courage to do the right thing.

I’m sure some of you have traveled to Utah. Places like Park City to ski or the Sundance Film Festival.

That’s fancy Utah. Like if Jon Huntsman or Mitt Romney were a city.

I want to be clear that I’m from a different part of Utah.

I’m from the part John Cougar Mellencamp sings about. You know Mellencamp, right? He’s like the homeless man’s Bruce Springsteen. Pardon me, the unhoused man’s Bruce Springsteen. Sorry, the unhoused person’s Bruce Springsteen.

You see, I grew up and raised my own kids in a small town with 1,200 residents and 1.2 million turkeys. I don’t mean to brag, but we have a notoriously large turkey processing plant. We are kind of a big deal.

We love Thanksgiving so much. Most people take Thanksgiving off. That’s when we get to work.

It’s a pretty perfect place to live and raise a family … which is what I keep telling my family. They have moved elsewhere.

Now you might think being from a small town in Utah that I’m not very smart. But I promise that nothing I say tonight … will change your mind.

I’m from the part of Utah that wasn’t surprised when that guy got caught swimming in the Bass Pro Shop aquarium. In my hometown, we call that cold plunge Tuesday.

Speaking of public humiliation, is Rudy Guliani here tonight? No really, I think Rudy’s doing a great job as America’s Mayor and running that lawn care business.

After the 2016 election, it was interesting to watch experts try to figure out why these rural areas like mine would support Donald Trump. In fact, I recently watched a great documentary that I thought nailed it. It’s called “The Hunger Games”? Oh nice, some of you have seen it. Although I thought they probably exaggerated the fashion in the Capitol, but being here tonight, it seems pretty accurate.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous coming to D.C., given the high rate of crime. I mean, it seems like there are violent robberies every night … but enough about Jordan Poole’s contract.

Seriously though, it feels like the place is kind of falling apart. Have you all considered bringing in Gavin Newsom for a week, and telling him there’s gonna be a visit from Xi Jinping? He’d be out there power washing the sidewalks right now. Apparently Gavin was going to attend tonight until Panera Bread pulled out as our caterer.

All joking aside, I truly can’t believe I’m here tonight. And neither can you … so at least we have that in common.

It really is such an honor to be at the famed Gridiron dinner. You see, they usually don’t let farm kids like me into rooms like this … unless you count Jan. 6. And even then we had to really push and shove our way in.

Here in D.C., you say you smoked, but didn’t inhale. Where I’m from people say they went to the rally, but didn’t go inside.

So, given the short notice, the Gridiron Club referred me to a paid speechwriter who has helped others get ready for this celebrated event. I was excited because I’ve never had a speechwriter before.

So I reached out and was told the fee was $20,000.

My first thought was, can you Imagine how many loaves of bread Tucker Carlson could buy at a Russian supermarket for 20 Grand?!

I mean seriously! The last time I spent $20,000 I at least got a 10-minute video on Cameo from George Santos.

The worst part is I found out the exact same speech only cost $200 before Bidenomics.

So I read this week that Gov. Kristi Noem is now doing paid ads and I thought maybe I could do that to raise some money. But the only person who called me back was Mike Lindell. And he wanted to pay me in pillows and tin foil hats.

So I apologize that you’re stuck with me writing my own material. The good news is that I practiced all my jokes in Utah, in front of sober people, so I should be much funnier tonight.

In full disclosure though, I did get a little help with this speech. Sen. Katie Britt offered some coaching. If you notice I’m a little breathy tonight. Unfortunately she used all of my material, so I had to start over.

I also reached to my friend Mitch McConnell for some ideas, and he said, “(long pause).” Anyway, thanks Mitch! You always know just what NOT to say.

In all seriousness, I spoke to Mitch and he said he was OK with that joke

Well, he implied it. At least he didn’t say no.

Truly though, this is a great event. I have to wonder if that’s because you run the Gridiron Club like we run our country … by seniority. In fact, I don’t know why we allow anything to be run by someone who isn’t a septuagenarian … am I right, Dan and Kathy?

Utah would be so much better off if I was 78.

Personally, I’m against ageism. I like old people. Some of my best friends are old people.

Speaking of which, did you guys just get that notification? It looks like “No Labels” has finally found their presidential candidate. You’re not going to believe this. It’s JIMMY CARTER! Finally, someone with experience fighting inflation.

Look, I do think we spend too much time talking about the president’s age. I recently watched another documentary; this one was about the president’s vitality, and for what it’s worth, I thought the president came across as sharp, active, and alert. You can find it on Netflix … I think it was called Weekend at Biden’s or something like that.

On that note, I’ve heard that the Gridiron Dinner is a great place for people with presidential ambitions. So I am excited to stand before you tonight to announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America … in 2052. When I will still be younger than both President Biden and Donald Trump are today.

I had to fact check all through the 2050s on that.

Of course, I’ve heard a mystery nominee may emerge from the Democratic convention in Chicago. And given that yesterday was the Ides of March, you may want to watch your back, Mr. President. We all remember that Roman saying: Et Tu, Gretchen?

Honestly, I think we give the president too hard a time when Congress deserves a lot of the blame. I’ve always said that Congress is only good at doing three things (counting on hand): nothing and overreacting.

And as the great Rick Perry would say… “Oops.” You probably haven’t thought about Rick Perry since he was at this dinner and said that animal husbandry was both his college major and what Rick Santorum thought would happen if we instituted gay marriage.

Oh yeah, stock trading. That’s the other one.

And finally, as we approach another election, I want to thank the media in this room for standing up for democracy and protecting us from a power-hungry, narcissistic, misogynist. I mean, can you imagine how terrible our country would be right now if we had elected Mitt Romney in 2012?

You deserve a lot of credit for saving us from binders full of women, dogs strapped on top of cars, and … well, that’s just 47% of the things I can remember you telling us about Mitt Romney.

I mean, the nerve of that guy! Russia as our greatest adversary. Pft. We all know that our greatest adversary is Taylor Swift.

In all sincerity, so much of what is truly great about America flows from a free press, embracing its sacred obligation to bring facts to light and to tell the truth no matter what. Even when that means choosing substance over clicks. Even when the truth is in conflict with your reader’s biases. Especially when the truth is in conflict with your own.

For the many committed to this ideal, to creating the “first draft of history” as it unfolds around us, thank you. We need you, desperately. Having the courage to tell the truth to each other is a sign that we hold each other in high regard.

Yes, democracy dies in darkness. But it can also die in the light of day if courageous people are not there to defend it.

I currently have the unique opportunity to serve as the chair of the National Governors Association. The NGA is one of the last bastions of bipartisanship. As chair, I launched an initiative titled Disagree Better, with the sole purpose of striving to depolarize our country and help Americans remember how to disagree without hating each other.

Sadly, we have too many politicians that act as conflict entrepreneurs. They have figured out how to use fear and divisiveness to gain power. I’m grateful for dozens of governors who have joined me in finding ways to lower the temperature and bring us back together.

I believe that each of you play an equally profound role in working to heal our deeply polarized nation. Sadly, there are some in your profession that have found that elevating the extremes, presuming bad faith and fomenting contempt are great ways to get clicks. Outrage sells. But outrage will never persuade. And it will never solve our biggest problems.

In a world full of arsonists, we desperately need some architects.

The good news is that there is a market for something different. Seventy percent of Americans — the exhausted majority — hate what is happening in politics and media today. It’s not too late to find our better angels.

I hope that we, as politicians, and you, as journalists, can find within ourselves more of that precious quality of humility — as Judge Learned Hand said, “The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.”

And as one of our greatest American leaders said in a speech that helped bring an end to the Cold War:

“What I’m trying to say is if I can change and you can change, everybody can change.”

And of course, that great historic figure was Rocky Balboa, from that classic geopolitical documentary “Rocky IV.”

May God bless you as you tell the story of our beloved country — in the year ahead and always.

Thank you for having me with you.