Hey White House Correspondents' Association, what took you so long to have Conan O'Brien back as the comedian guest for your annual White House Correspondents' Dinner? The talk show host last entertained your audience in 1995, and 18 years later, on Saturday night at the Washington Hilton, the funny guy kept the laughter and applause going throughout his 20-minute speech.
And that was after he followed President Barack Obama, who landed quite a few zingers of his own.
Among TBS late-night host O'Brien's best jokes at the event nicknamed the Nerd Prom: comparing the room of media types to a high school cafeteria. "Fox is the jocks, MSNBC is the nerds, bloggers are the Goths, NPR is the table for kids with peanut allergies, Al Jazeera is the weird foreign exchange student nobody talks to," he said, "and print media, I didn't forget you. You're the poor kid who died sophomore year in a car crash … cheer up, we dedicate the yearbook to you."
O'Brien also poked fun at everything from the new Bush library, a probably lack of chemistry on a Rachel Maddow/Anderson Cooper date, and C-SPAN to New Jersey governor Chris Christie, "Today" weatherman Al Roker, and the Hilton ("They were kind enough to reschedule a Cash4Gold seminar for us").
Meanwhile, President Obama landed jabs at his wife's bangs, the supposed "Obama as the devil" actor in History Channel's "The Bible" miniseries and old nuggets like the Conan/Jay Leno brouhaha at NBC and Obama's own birthplace controversy.
His best joke of the evening also came at his own expense, sorta, as he recalled how billionaire Sheldon Adelson spent "Oprah money" to try to stop Obama from being re-elected.
"Did you know Sheldon Adelson spent $100 million of his own money last year on negative ads? You've gotta really dislike me to spend that kind of money," Obama said. "I mean, that's Oprah money. You could buy an island and call it 'Nobama' for that kind of money. Sheldon would have been better off offering me $100 million to drop out of the race. I probably wouldn't have taken it … but I'd have thought about it. Michelle would have taken it."
The President also joked about his, ahem, recreational activities during his younger years: "The media landscape is changing so rapidly you can't keep up with it," he said. "I remember when 'buzzfeed' was just something I did in college around 2 a.m."
The evening's post-meal presentation kicked off with a WHCA-made spoof video that featured Kevin Spacey channeling his "House of Cards" character Frank Underwood, who's joined by various politicians (New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg and Senator John McCain among them) and journalists (CBS News' Major Garrett and Buzzfeed's Ben Smith among them) in poking fun at the Dinner, which has been held every year since 1920.
Obama then showed a spoof of his own, produced in conjunction with (and co-starring) Steven Spielberg: "Steven Spielberg's Obama," a "Lincoln"-esque film bio of Obama, with Daniel Day-Lewis (played by Obama) as Obama, and Tracy Morgan as Joe Biden.
O'Brien, who grew up in Boston, gave a shout out to his fellow Beantowners and their resilience after the Boston Marathon bombings by issuing a warning to any would-be terrorists: "It's really pretty simple," he said. "If you're gonna pick on a city, don't choose one where nine out of 10 people are related to a cop. And that includes me."
He also announced a movie project of his own -- or rather one by his late-night home, Turner Broadcasting -- a Washington tale, because "Hollywood can't get enough of your world." He announced the movie's cast, aided by side-by-side pictures of the real-life and reel-life people:
- Joe Biden, as played by Bob Barker
- David Axelrod, as played by "Higgins from 'Magnum P.I.'"
- Paul Ryan, played by Mr. Bean
- Chuck Schumer, played by Grandpa Munster
- Harry Reid, played by the "Old man from the 'American Gothic' painting"
- Roger Ailes, played by Boss Hogg
- John Boehner, played by Tan Mom
- Janet Napolitano, played by Paul Giamatti
- Rahm Emanuel, played by Stewie from "Family Guy"
- John Kerry, played by an Easter Island head
- John Roberts, played by Buzz Lightyear
- Mitch McConnell, played by Dame Edna
- Wolf Blitzer, played by a Furby
- Wayne LaPierre, played by "Face Melt Guy from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'"
- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, played by "Ralphie from 'A Christmas Story'"
The Dinner, which has become just as famous (or perhaps more so) for its Hollywood guest list as its political humor, was again a magnet for TV, movie, and music stars, with a line-up that included:
- Michael J. Fox
- "Saturday Night Live" stars Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen
- Matthew Perry
- Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere, and Charles Esten from "Nashville"
- Tony Goldwyn and Kerry Washington from "Scandal"
- Claire Danes and Morena Baccarin from "Homeland"
- Josh Radnor from "How I Met Your Mother"
- Sharon Stone
- Bradley Cooper
- Melissa Tomei
- Amy Poehler
- Michael Douglas (looking more like his dad, Kirk, with his new white hairdo)
- Gerard Butler
- "Breaking Bad" alum Giancarlo Esposito
- Kevin Spacey
- Barbra Streisand
- Katy Perry
- Gayle King
- "Gangnam Style"-er Psy
- Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara, and Ty Burrell from "Modern Family"
- Tracy Morgan
- Michelle Dockery from "Downton Abbey"
- Paul Rudd
- Sanjay Gupta
- Steven Spielberg
- Jessica Pare from "Mad Men"
- "Duck Dynasty" cast
Oh, and the most random celeb we spotted during our C-SPAN viewing: JC Chasez. You know, the 'NSync singer who's not Justin Timberlake or Lance Bass or Joey Fatone or … the other guy. We kid, Chris Kirkpatrick!
The rest of the best of Conan O'Brien and President Obama's WHCD remarks:
- O'Brien on the event's food: "Here's a fun fact about tonight's food: everything you ate was personally shot by (NRA executive vice president) Wayne LaPierre. Don't worry, it was during a home invasion, though. The fish came in through the window. That wasn't peppercorn, that was buckshot."
- O'Brien on the quality of the celeb guest list: "The guys from 'Duck Dynasty' are here, which can only mean one thing: the guys from 'Storage Wars' said no."
- Obama on his Easter hoops game (and NBC): "I go out on the basketball court, took 22 shots, made two of them. That's right, two hits, 20 misses … the executives at NBC asked, 'What's your secret?'"
- O'Brien on how things have changed since he attended the Dinner in 1995: "A lot's changed since then. Today you can get real-time information on world events from something small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Back in '95, we called that George Stephanopoulos."
- O'Brien on the state of the media: "Some people say print media is dying, but I don't believe it … and neither does my blacksmith. You gotta meet Zachariah, he's great."
- Obama on one of his celebrity pals: "This whole controversy about Jay-Z going to Cuba … I've got 99 problems, and now Jay-Z's one."
- O'Brien on one of the more ridiculously-named politicians: "Well, there's RNC chairman Reince Priebus. You heard me correctly … his name is Reince (pronounced "rinse") Priebus. Tonight, he's sitting right in between his brothers, Lather Priebus and Repeat Priebus."
- O'Brien on The Huffington Post: "I see The Huffington Post has a table. Which has me wondering, if you're here, who's covering Miley Cyrus's latest nip slip? Who's assembling today's top 25 yogurt-related tweets? 'Seven mistakes you're making with bacon' … That's a real one, and you should be ashamed of yourselves!"
- Obama on, um, job performance: "My job is to be President, (the media's) job is to keep me humble. Frankly, I think I'm doing my job better." O'Brien also commented on Obama's performance in boosting job growth, pointing out that "Since he has been President, the number of popes has doubled."
- O'Brien on gauging the temperature of the room: "If the President laughs, everyone laughs. If the Fox News table laughs, a little girl just fell off her bike," he said, looking over at the Fox News table and adding, "How ya doin', Bill?"
P.S. O'Brien was not only a funny guy, he was also a generous one. White House Correspondents' Association president Ed Henry revealed to the audience that his group pays the comedian who entertains the Dinner $10,000. O'Brien, he said, refused to take the check, telling Henry to add the cash to the WHCA's scholarship fund instead. Henry added that O'Brien is the only WHCD celeb host to ever turn down the moolah. Nice one, Coco.