The last time a president and comedian participated in the stage at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was six long years ago, when Larry Willmore ended his set with a deeply personal farewell to Barack Obama. Much has changed in both politics and comedy since then.
Now, after a few years in which Donald Trump declined to attend and was roasted in absentia, and in particular, comedian Michelle Wolf, two more years have been canceled due to the pandemic—and a year in between that everyone concerned would prefer to forget—Washington, D.C. “Prom Nerd” made a tentative comeback Saturday night amid yet another wave of COVID that has already absorbed Vice President Kamala Harris.
But there was nothing tentative about host Trevor Noah’s group.
With Pete Davidson and Kim Kardashian among the famous faces in the room, daily offer The host opened his remarks by saying that it was “a great honor for him to speak at the most outstanding event in the country.”
“I expect this from Sean Hannity, but the rest of you, what are you doing?” Noah asked. “I’ve spent the past two years telling everyone the importance of wearing masks and avoiding large indoor gatherings. Then the second person serves you a free dinner, and then you turn into Joe Rogan.” Then he pointed out that we should have known something was wrong when Dr. Fauci “thinks it’s too dangerous” to attend the event while Pete Davidson “thinks it’s okay.”
No one was left unscathed during Noah’s unbanned group, from Democrats like Kirsten Senema (“openly bisexual but closed Republican”) and Republicans like Ron DeSantis (“He wouldn’t even tell people whether he got a boost. They say in Florida,” Don’t ask, don’t tell”).
There were also plenty of jokes at the expense of embattled media personalities like Chris Cuomo and Jeffrey Tobin, who said they could still win a Grammy for Best Comedy Album after “beating it up” in front of his mates.
“This is a special event,” he added. “Indeed, upon coming, I heard Megan McCain say to the guard, ‘Do you know who my father was?!'” They were like, ‘You have a ticket, you can come in,’ but she agreed to tell them who her father was anyway.”
to Meet the press Noah asked host Chuck Todd, “How are you? I’d like to ask about a follow up, but I know you don’t know what it is.” As the crowd groaned, he added, “Don’t mock him, he’s trying!”
The host then compared Fox News to Waffle House, explaining, “It’s relatively normal in the afternoon, but as soon as the sun goes down, there’s a drunk lady named Jeanine who threatens to fight every Mexican who comes.” He said the network’s prime-time lineup was so “impressive” that “its clips about vaccines have moved their viewers … to the intensive care unit.”
Spotting Fox’s Laura Ingraham in the crowd, Noah said, “Wow, what can you say about her that the ADL hasn’t already said?”
Before Noah even took the stage, President Biden got early help from James Corden to get a mildly humorous pre-recorded video in which he was outgoing late late show Host Gene Psaki was briefly replaced by the White House press secretary, complete with a cameo from a Fox News reporter who the president once described as the “stupid son of a bitch.”
When it was his turn to crack a few jokes on his own, Biden began mocking his own poor approval ratings and said it was no surprise that it had been six years since the president spoke at dinner since the country suffered a “horrific plague” followed by two years of COVID.” He drew a few groans when he added, “Just imagine if my predecessor attended this dinner this year, now that would be a real coup.”
Biden later added, “I know there are questions about whether we should gather here tonight because of the coronavirus.” “Well, we’re here to show the country that we’re getting through this pandemic. Plus, everyone has had to prove they’ve been fully vaccinated and boosted. So if you’re at home watching this and wondering how to do it, just call your favorite Fox News reporter. They’re all here. They were vaccinated and bolstered, all of them.”
For good measure, I cut the camera to Peter Ducey of Fox, who barely smiled.
By the end of his speech, which lasted more than 25 minutes, Trevor Noah used his time in the spotlight to challenge the journalists in the room to use their unique American freedom for good.
“In America, you have the right to seek the truth and speak the truth, even if that makes the people in power uncomfortable,” Noah said. “Even if it makes viewers or readers uncomfortable. Do you understand how amazing that is? I stood here tonight and made fun of the President of the United States and I would be fine.”
Turning to Biden, he asked, “I’ll be fine, right?”
But before he left, Noah did another dig at the boss. “Please be careful when leaving tonight,” he told the crowd. “We all know this administration is not handling evictions very well.”
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