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White House Correspondents' Dinner: With Obama at the Mic, G.S.A. Jokes Followed the Petite Filet

President Obama's jokes at the White House Correspondents' Dinner Saturday addressed the now-infamous 2010 General Services Administration conference in Las Vegas.
President Obama's jokes at the White House Correspondents' Dinner Saturday addressed the now-infamous 2010 General Services Administration conference in Las Vegas.
Photo: Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images

With government spending and scandal in the news, this year's White House Correspondents' Association dinner found itself targeted in the jokes.  "Look at this party," President Obama said. "We’ve got men in tuxes, women in gowns, fine wine, first-class entertainment. I was just relieved to learn this was not a G.S.A. conference." Later, he took on the venue: "Anyway, it’s great to be here this evening in the vast, magnificent Hilton ballroom—or what Mitt Romney would call a little fixer-upper."

Every president since Calvin Coolidge has attended the dinner, which began in 1914, but those early dinners probably resemble nothing close to what the event has turned into: a celebrity-/media-/politician-filled gathering of more than 2,600 people with roast-worthy remarks from a professional comedian.

"For better or worse, the once-clubby press dinner has become Washington’s own Super Bowl, a main event drawing ever more out-of-towners and bracketed by ever more parties," The Washington Post's Reliable Source wrote, noting the increase in corporate executives at parties. "Why? WHCD is less political than an inauguration; brainier, presumably, than the Oscars."

This year, Jimmy Kimmel took on hosting duties, skewering both Washington and Hollywood. Kimmel lobbed jokes at both crowds. He took on Kim Kardashian and Lindsey Lohan, asking "Miracle on the Hudson" Captain Sully Sullinger if he could give Lohan a ride home, as well as first lady Michelle Obama's healthy-living initiatives: "They say diplomacy is a matter of carrot and sticks. And since Michelle Obama got to the White House, so is dinner."

Kimmel's performance did not wow many critics. "He didn't bomb," according to The Hollywood Reporter. "Kimmel's half-hour speech was received with consistent, if not uproarious, laughter—likely a result of his playing it relatively safe. By Correspondents' Dinner standards, and certainly compared to Seth Meyers' 2011 skewering of Donald Trump, Kimmel really wasn't that mean."

Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker was kinder: "I liked how old-school Kimmel was, doling out one short, punchy joke after joke after joke, in the manner of Henny Youngman."

Then again, how could this year possibly live up to the dramatic dinner last year, which the president attended immediately after giving the go-ahead for a mission to kill Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden? He alluded to it in a joke: "Last year at this time—in fact, on this very weekend—we finally delivered justice to one of the world’s most notorious individuals,” Obama said, pausing as a photo of Donald Trump flashed on the ballroom screens.

The meal itself was far from carrots and sticks. According to The Christian Science Monitor, the menu featured "a salad of black lentil terrine with lump crabmeat; tango green and red artisan greens; red and yellow tear drop tomatoes, paired with a dill vinaigrette. The entrĂ©e was a Texas-rubbed petite filet with a calvados demi, paired with duo of jump shrimp seasoned with red curry, roasted haricot verts, baby pepper, patty pan squash, tasso mache choux risotto. Dessert was 'The Galaxy'–a rich chocolate truffle mousse layered with chocolate genoise and almond macaroon; ganache truffle center finished in chocolate glaze, garnished with fresh raspberries."

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