Obama and O'Brien Cast Their Versions of D.C. White House Correspondents' Dinner

Esther Zuckerman, The Atlantic Wire
National Journal

Both President Barack Obama and Conan O'Brien decided to cast Hollywood versions of D.C. at the White House Correspondents' Dinner this year. Obama's version was directed by Steven Spielberg, O'Brien's starred "Tan Mom" as John Boehner.

With the celebrities having walked the White House Correspondents' Dinner red carpet and the crowd in the Washington Hilton having eaten and schmoozed, it came time for the key parts of the evening: remarks from President Obama and Conan O'Brien. Of particular interest was how the president was going to address the recent bombings in Boston, and, along those same lines, what tone O'Brien will take.

Obama came out swinging with jokes at the ready. One of his opening lines joked about his age: “I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist I used to be.” He made light of the frenzy over Michelle Obama's bangs, by explaining his strategy for a second term burst of energy showing a series of pictures with his new hairstyle:

He riffed on topics ranging from his Jay-Z's trip to Cuba ("I’ve got 99 problems and now Jay-Z is one of them") to BuzzFeed ("I remember when Buzzfeed was just something I did at college around 2 a.m.") He even took aim at the much maligned NBC when he talked about how he made only two shots at the Easter Egg Roll: "The executives at NBC asked ‘what’s your secret?" But his highlight was a video with Steven Spielberg, about Spielberg's new project: "Obama." Spielberg cast Daniel Day-Lewis as Obama, but in the video shown Obama played Daniel Day-Lewis playing Obama. Tracy Morgan played Joe Biden. Here's that clip:

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But Obama closed on a more serious note. "These have been some very hard days for too many of our citizens," he said. He also complimented the work of journalists during these days, specifically calling out the Boston Globe and NBC's Pete Williams.

Following Obama Conan O'Brien got his fair share of groans—both in the room and on Twitter—when he took aim at a variety of topics ranging from the Hilton, to dying print media, to Kim Jong-Un. He joked that Arianna Huffington made him watch a 30 second ad before he could say hello to her, and that Matt Drudge wasn't there because he had a "he had a prior commitment to teach a web design class in 1997." There were CNN jokes a plenty, including one about how they “they replaced the popular Larry King with one of the scheming footman from Downton Abbey.” (That's Piers Morgan, of course.) He explained that the media landscape was like a high school cafeteria with NPR as the table for "kids with peanut allergies." There was also a joke about the time Al Roker soiled himself at the White House.

O'Brien then turned his attention to Republicans, saying that the party refers to Marco Rubio as "our black guy" and joking about Reince Priebus' name. (He was sitting between brothers "Lather Priebus and Repeat Priebus.") He went fairly easy on the president, asking why he was still asking for money, and joking about how old he looks.

Before his final joke he took a moment to address Boston, his hometown, and thank the president for going there, but he ended by casting his version of a dramatized version of the Beltway. There Joe Biden will be played by Bob Barker, Paul Ryan by Mr. Bean, and John Kerry by an Easter Island Head:

O'Brien's performance—in which he talked very loudly into the microphone and occasionally banged a gavel—did not go over entirely well on Twitter.

Note to #WHCD: Maybe we just forget about a "headliner" for the next couple years?

— aarongell (@aarongell) April 28, 2013

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Watch Obama's speech here and O'Brien's here.

Atlantic Wire
Atlantic Wire

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