The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is an annual gathering of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA)—an independently operated organisation of journalists who cover the White House and the President of the United States. It’s a high-fuss affair because it’s attended by the president and vice president, and covered by the media. But it’s more widely anticipated around the world since everyone got high speed internet because, for the last 35 years, it has also included a savage comedy roast of the president and his administration by some of America’s most popular comedians.
The president himself also usually performs a sketch or humorous performance poking fun at himself to be more bro-like and distract you from his healthcare bill. (Unless the president is Donald Drumf, who bunked the last two dinners because he’s too busy baiting Kim Jong on Twitter.)
Over time, and thanks to a guest list that now includes Hollywood A-listers as well, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner has grown into one of those great American traditions that has the world’s attention. So imagine the collective secondhand rage everyone felt when they announced that the next edition would not feature a comedian at all.
Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer, journalist, historian and biographer Ron Chernow was today revealed as the performer for 2019. Which SUCKED for him because it immediately made everyone mad. “White House can’t laugh at itself!” news headlines screamed; “Trump’s a joke, he can’t take a joke?” people on Twitter cried. Maybe they should just go back to 1921, when the thing first started as a “dinner with singing between courses, a homemade movie and an hour-long, post-dinner show with big-name performers,” hmm? While they figure that shit out, let’s take a moment to send poor Chernow some good juju, and then revisit the savage past performances of the 2010s.
2018: Michelle Wolf
Trump, surprisingly still President, skipped the dinner for the second time in a row this summer. He did send press secretary Sanders though, which is already a better turnout from his wolfpack than last year. Michelle Wolf took the reins on this one, with a mildly awkward monologue that received equal praise and criticism. “People call Trump names all the time, and look, I could call Trump a racist, or a misogynist, or xenophobic, or unstable, or incompetent, or impotent, but he’s heard all of those and he doesn’t care,” she said, a few minutes into her set. “So tonight, I’m going to try to make fun of the president in a new way, in a way I think will really get him.” Then followed a string of one-liners about him pulling out of the Paris Agreement, the #MeToo movement, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell. Did she succeed? You tell us.
2017: Hasan Minhaj
It was the first time in a long, long, long time that a president (and his entire administration) didn’t attend the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. (The last was Ronald Reagan in 1981, because someone had tried assassinating him and he was recovering, and even HE managed to phone into the event and joke about the shooting.) But who cares? We had Hasan Minhaj, and he compared Trump to King Joffrey and nobody laughed because it’s actually not funny when it’s true. “We gotta address the elephant that’s not in the room,” he began after everyone was settled in. “Historically, the president usually performs at the Correspondents’ dinner but I think I speak for all of us when I say he’s done far too much bombing this month.”
Wide-eyed and incredulous as the rest of the world should also be when it comes to Trump, he reminded us: “You know Donald Trump doesn’t drink, right? … Which is oddly respectable, but think about that. That means… every statement, every interview, every tweet, completely sober. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?”
Like one Michael Bush said in the YouTube comments: Balls the size of watermelons on this mofo. Respect.
Yep, you want to watch the whole thing, and here it is:
2016: Larry Wilmore
Wilmore was doing so well, tearing into President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Fox News, celebrities… the works. “I gotta be careful picking on you, though, Mr President. Couple years ago during this dinner, you were like killing Osama bin Laden. Remember that? Who you killing tonight? Can’t be print journalism; that industry’s been dead for awhile now, right? Sorry. I’m just kidding. Shout out to the print media. No, really, you have to shout, they’re like all over 70 now.” He even ripped into C-SPAN, the independent non-profit streaming cable television network service that covers the dinner. “…it is good to be on C-SPAN. Glad I’m not on your rival network, “No input, HDMI1.”
And then he fucked it all up right at the end, when he closed with “a humble appreciation for the historical implications for what your presidency means” but then used the N-word. “So, Mr President, if i’m going to keep it 100: Yo, Barry, you did it, my n—-. You did it,” sending palms flying into everyone’s faces.
Still want to give it a go? Here:
2015: Cecily Strong, Obama and his ‘anger translator’ Keegan-Michael Key
“I’m a mellow sort of guy,” the president claimed, deadpan, as he introduced his “anger translator” Luther (comedian Keegan-Michael Key). While Obama continued his speech with smooth-ass style, Key filled in the subtext of everything he was saying by flailing his arms, popping his eyes, and shouting his head off.
It was a tough act to follow for comedian and SNL cast member Cecily Strong, but she powered through, landing timely punches on the press, the police, and Hillary Clinton. “Since I’m only a comedian, I’m not going to try and tell you politicians how to do politics or whatever. That’s not my job. That would be like you guys telling me what to do with my body. I mean, can you even imagine? Crazy.”