The Daily Show‘s Trevor Noah on Saturday evening was the lead entertainer at the first White House Correspondents Association Dinner to be held since 2019 — and the first to actually be attended by the sitting POTUS since 2016.
The White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual fete, which airs on C-SPAN and is held in the Washington Hilton Ballroom, was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. The most recent dinner, held in April 2019, abandoned the usual comedic entertainment in favor of a keynote speech by historian and author Ron Chernow.
The last comedian to work what is known in D.C. as the “Nerd Prom” was Daily Show alumna Michelle Wolf, who in 2018 drew fire for some digs at then-White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (representing President Donald Trump at the head table; Trump was MIA for the second of what would be three straight years, for reasons).
The post-dinner, entertainment portion of the evening kicked off with a pre-taped segment in which The Late Late Show‘s James Corden stepped in as White House press secretary. It was a pretty toothless and silly bit, where Corden claimed to not know what/where Delaware (where Biden’s home/go-to getaway is located) is, got Fox News reporter Pete Doocy’s name wrong, mocked a newsman’s socks and eventually ceded the podium to its rightful owner, Jen Psaki.
After the WHCA handed out its annual awards for actual reporting, Billy Eichner appeared in a second pre-taped segment which claimed that this year the organization was also acknowledging entertainment journalists. As such, he announced awards for, for example, E News’ Naz Perez “fearless” reporting that “Harry Styles and Olivia Wilde Couldn’t Be Happier.” (E News’ Justin Sylvester and Today‘s Jason Kennedy were also on hand for their own awards, including for the latter “Telling Us What’s Happening on The Bachelor.”)
Ahead of Noah taking the mic, President Biden stepped up to fire off some shots of his own, including:
* “I’m excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have.”
* Biden said that no president attending the WCHD dinner in six years was “understandable. We had a horrible plague, followed by two years of COVID.”
* Had his predecessor Donald Trump shown up for this year’s WHCD, “that would have been a real coup,” he said (to uncomfortable reactions).
* Everyone at the White House was so excited to have the WHCD held again, “I told my grandkids and [40-year-old Secretary of Transportation] Pete Buttigieg they could stay up late and watch this show tonight.”
* Biden made clear that everyone in the Hilton ballroom was vaccinated and had received boosters, “so if you’re at home wondering how to do that, just contact your favorite Fox News reporter — they’re all here, vaccinated and boosted.” (Cut to Pete Doocy in the audience, looking sheepish.)
* Biden scrutinized CBS News’ recent hiring of Mick Mulvaney, a former top Trump aide. “I was stunned. I figured he’d end up on Masked Singer with Rudy [Giuliani].”
* Biden insisted he was not there to roast Republicans. “Besides, there’s nothing I could say about the GOP that [GOP leader] Kevin McCarthy hasn’t already put on tape.”
* “Republicans seem to support one fella, some guy named Brandon. He’s having a really good year, and I’m kinda happy for him!”
Finally stepping up to the mic, Noah said it was a great honor to be at “the nation’s most distinguished superspreader event.”
“I mean, Dr. Fauci dropped out [of the dinner]!” he marveled. “That should have been a pretty big sign!” Instead, Noah said they all chose to follow the lead of SNL‘s Pete Davidson, who was in attendance with Kim Kardashian.
* Noah encouraged everyone to not worry about laughing and just chill/get comfortable. But “not too comfortable, Jeffrey Toobin.” He then reassured Toobin that “whip[ping] it out in front of coworkers” is the first step toward winning a Grammy for Comedy Album of the Year.
* With a nod to Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), Noah said, “Who ever thought we’d see the day when a senator could be openly bisexual but a closeted Republican?”
* Alluding to the Oscars Slap, Noah said he worried about, like, making a mean joke about Kellyanne Conway “and then her husband rushes up on the stage and… thanks me.”
* “Before people order their Ubers home tonight, [Texas] Governor Greg Abbott is generously providing free buses for the Telemundo table.”
* Then addressing the governor of Florida, Noah said, “If Trump was the original terminator, [Ron] DeSantis is like the T-1000. You’re smarter than him, you’re slicker than him, you can walk down ramps!”
* Noah said to Biden that he wondered why he got chosen to host this year’s WHCD — “but then I was told you get your highest approval ratings with a biracial African guy standing next to you.”
* Again to Biden, Noah said that “ever since you came into office, things are already looking up. Gas is up, rent is up, food is up…. Everything.”
* Noah said that Biden saying that Vladimir Putin should be removed from power “was very upsetting to Russia — until someone explained to them that nothing that Biden wants actually gets done.”
* Commending Biden’s plan to more heavily tax the “super-wealthy,” Noah said, “You could have targeted Donald Trump, but instead you chose only to raise taxes on billionaires.”
* Questioning White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s upcoming move to MSNBC, Noah said it’d be “a big switch-up. Right now your job is to make the Biden administration look good at all costs. Now that you’re at MSNBC… hmm, actually, you’ll be fine.”
* “[NBC News’] Chuck Todd is here. Chuck, how are you doing…? I’d ask a follow-up, but I know you don’t know what those are.”
* Noah commended the New York Times for procuring the Kevin McCarthy tapes, adding: “You knew how crucial those tapes were, which is why you immediately waited until your book was for sale to tell the people about them.”
* Noah likened Fox News to a waffle house: “It’s relatively normal in the afternoon, but as soon as the sun goes down…. [Shudders]”
* Regarding CNN’s recently (and quickly) shuttered streaming news service: “CNN+: Gone, but forgotten.”
* “This is the golden era of conspiracy theories, whether it’s the right thinking Trump can still win the 2020 election… or the left thinking Biden can still win the 2024 election.”
Noah wrapped things up on a more serious note, talking about the importance of journalist and the need to speak truth to power. “In America you have the right to seek the truth and speak the truth, even if it makes people in power uncomfortable, even if it makes your readers and viewers uncomfortable,” he stressed. For example, “I stood here tonight and made fun of the president of the United States, and I’m going to be fine.”
He then turned to Biden to seek assurance, “I am going to be fine, right?”