Some memo got around Hollywood regarding the White House Correspondents Dinner this year – that it was somehow more important to attend than the Oscars.
Never mind it’s a largely dull group of people eating dinner in the ballroom of the hotel where Reagan was shot. The notion that a late night comic would address them and the President would be there was enough to rev up red-eyes worth of stars and their publicists to make it to Washington for a cold and rainy April weekend where they had the opportunity to be seen by the national cameras of CSPAN.
Although that wasn’t as true this year – the cameras for the red carpet arrival portion of the event was about the worst thing you could imagine: A camera in the worst location, operated by someone who couldn’t tell a star in the night sky. While some might have covered it with an anchor and commentary, it was CSPAN’s way to just turn the camera on and wave it back and forth as the guest list filed in. A security camera could have caught better shots.
Some of the surreality of the event leaked through anyway – Colin Powell entering next to Mary J. Blige as if they came together though in fact neither one could recognize the other. Assorted stars of prime time movies. The guy from “Hunger Games.” Al Roker. The Housing Secretary.
Twenty minutes in, the studio people finally recognized their first star: Goldie Hawn, being escorted by a more creepy looking than usual Piers Morgan. By then dozens had gone by already.
Never mind. Fast forward three and a half hours later and the comedy highlight of the night came up.
And as mostly solid as Jimmy Kimmel was, he couldn’t beat the material of President Obama. Who does his stuff (which he is apparently reading for the first or second time?). Smart money is on the team from the “Daily Show” or “Colbert,” so well written is the material.
But he could have agreed to do Jimmy Fallon the other day in exchange for a pile of fresh jokes as well. We may never know.
Anyway, it was sharp stuff, touching on the most recent news, barbed comments to his political foes and just as much self-effacing humor. He began with the premise that his microphone was still on, as it was in that embarrassing exchange with the Russian official lately.
In this one we hear him complaining backstage why he’s even there: “I have the nuclear codes! Why am I telling knock knock jokes to Kim Kardashian?”
He worried about his own appearance, before he noted the time and made his way to the stage. (“God forbid we keep Chuck Todd and the cast of ‘Glee’ waiting,” he muttered).
Once up there, he jumped deep into great satire by reminding how he had killed – literally – the year before.
“My fellow Americans, we gather during an historic anniversary” he began. “Last year at this time, in fact, on this very weekend, we finally delivered Justice to one of the world’s most notorious individuals.”
The screen flashes his picture: Donald Trump.
Yes, everybody thought he’d be mentioning Osama bin Laden, but it was Trump, who a year ago was actually a possible candidate for President, but whose evisceration by Obama and especially keynote Seth Meyers effectively ended the possibility. It’s worth going back and reviewing their devastating, and devastatingly funny attack, made all the more effective by the fact that Trump just sat there and stewed, not being a good sport about it at all.
From there he went on to poke fun at Gingrich, who was there, and Romney, who was not, and like the press concentrated on how each candidate treats his dog – Romney atop a car; Obama admitting tin a memoir o tasting dog while growing up abroad.
“What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?” he asked, echoing Sarah Palin. “A pit bull is delicious!”
He showed a Super PAC negative ad about his dog problems that wasn’t too far off the mark of what smear-mongers might try, and went on about what to exect of a second term (instead of singing Al Green, it’ll be Young Jeezy).
He closed because he said he “had to get the Secret Service home in time for their new curfew,” reminding the audience that he hadn’t done a lot of jokes about that issue that also has the press going crazy (dogs and sex are issues they clearly care about).
It left Kimmel with the opportunity to do a long sting of secret service prostitute ads that helped win the audience back to him – following Obama’s high and the low of Kimmel’s choice of introductory material, a White House themed “Week in Unnecessary Censorship” that bleeped clips to make it sound like officials had been swearing up a storm. It seemed especially crude in the room, and no laughter was heard from them on the CSPAN audio.
But Kimmel is nothing if not relentless, and he plugged along with a couple week’s worth of topical jokes – bam bam bam, one after another, nonstop in their way. Hit or miss or mostly OK, they weren’t structured to particularly build (as Meyers’ did last year) and their overall effect, after 20 minutes was one of exhaustion.
Impressive he had this many jokes (how many? 100? More?), but did he have to use every single one of them?
Mostly, he could have used whatever blue ribbon team had been working on Obama’s routine.