Why the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner Is Awesome


Over 200,000 people attended the Colbert-Stewart Rally to restore Sanity and/or Fear last month, but many people still haven’t seen Stephen Colbert’s speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents Association Dinner. In what can only be referred to as a “performance” before 2,500 guests including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace, China’s Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong, model and tennis player Anna Kournikova, actor George Clooney, and of course President George W. Bush himself, Colbert delivered a “controversial and searing routine targeting the president and the media.”

Colbert roasted President Bush and everyone else in the room for 16 minutes and concluded with a 7-minute sketch comedy video of himself equivocating as a White House press secretary hounded by Helen Thomas. His speech received both support and criticism. I wonder what outgoing White House Press Corps Association President Mark Smith was thinking when he invited Colbert to deliver the keynote speech. Was he expecting something other than Colbert’s usual scathing satire? According to New York magazine,

Smith later told the Times he hadn’t seen much of Colbert’s work.

At least Joe Wilson and his ex-CIA wife Valerie Plame got a laugh out of Colbert’s poke at them.

As if he hasn’t sufficiently proven his brazenness and the size of his cojones, Colbert recently testified before Congress on the issue of migrant farm workers.

While I’m on the subject of the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, here’s Obama’s speech during the 2010 dinner.

Some reasons why Obama’s speech worked on a comedic level:

  • He made fun of himself first. The initial self-deprecation paves the way for poking fun at others.
  • His sudden modulations tone and graceful pivoting from seriousness to humor. E.g. while talking about his love for Michelle, he suddenly brings up the topic of his birth certificate.