It's been two years since the last time the White House Correspondent Association held their annual WHCA Dinner. It's a time-honored tradition which roasts those in power and brings everyone down to the same playing field for one night.
The last one with a comedian at the helm was held in 2018 - with Michelle Wolf as host, making it a memorable and controversial evening. The pandemic - and the scorn of then-President Donald Trump - scaled it down for a few years, but it's back and funnier than ever. This year's host was late night host and comedian Trevor Noah - who dialed things back a touch this year, but nonetheless brought the laughs.
President Joe Biden ripped on his own low approval rating; celebs walked the red carpet - it was certainly a night to remember.
Best Jokes of the Night
Called the "Fourth Estate," the role of the free press in a democracy is one of vital importance. Although it's not recognized as a branch of government, the press balances out the power of the legislative, judicial and executive branches - holding them accountable to the truth and making sure that the voting public knows what's happening in the halls of power.
The press pool of the White House correspondents are on the frontline of democracy every day, following the President, Senators, Representatives, and the balances and shifts in power from minute to minute.
The job of course can get a little weighty. With few thanks and ample criticism, press pool reporters face a constant onslaught of the stark realities of life, pressure from the public, and a duty as heavy as any elected official. So for the WHCA Dinner, it's an evening that affords them the chance to let loose a little and laugh. Every year since 1920, comedians and celebrities have taken the opportunity to take pot-shots at those in power, occasionally rag on the press, and bring everyone into equilibrium for one night.
This year's even was no exception. Some of the most memorable moments of the night came from President Joe Biden, who used self-deprecating humor and some somber moments to acknowledge the realities facing millions around the world. Host Trevor Noah kept things light, but also took moments to remind the world that we are still in a pandemic - and there is still a war in Ukraine.
Here are some of the best jokes and moments of the night, that you'll want to remember:
- Noah welcomed everyone with a little light-hearted pandemic humor, quipping, "It is my great honor to be speaking tonight at the nation's most distinguished super-spreader event. No for real, people, what are we doing here?"
- The comedian also drew attention to the inflation that has been plaguing the American consumer, "These people have been so hard on you, which I don't get. I really don't. Ever since you've come into office, things are really looking up. Gas is up, rent is up, food is up - everything."
- Biden also took a humble opening shot at the press, "I'm really excited to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than I have."
- The President added a more precise shot at sometimes-nemesis Fox News, whose pundits often criticize and stood squarely in the way of the nation's COVID vaccination efforts; "Everyone had to prove that they were fully vaccinated and boosted. So if you're at home watching this and you're wondering how to do that, just contact your favorite Fox News reporter. They're all here. Vaccinated and boosted. All of them."
- And again the President, who was the first sitting president to take the stage in 6 years, levied a biting quip - this time at his predecessor, "This is the first time the president has attended this dinner in six years. It's understandable, we had a horrible plague - followed by two years of COVID."
- Biden's last memorable joke came in the form of acknowledging the right-wing darling chant, "Let's go Brandon!" Which is a way of saying, "F--- Joe Biden." Biden joked, "Republicans seem to support one fellow. Some guy named Brandon. He's having a really good year. I'm kinda happy for him."
- TV Line adds, "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?'
- ... 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!'
- ... '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.'”
But there was a somber moment separately for both the president and the comedy host.
Biden took a moment to acknowledge the role that the free press plays in keeping democracy free and open; "All this taking place, with disinformation massively on the rise. When the truth is buried by lies and the lies live on as truth. What's clear, and I mean this in the bottom of my heart, that you - the free press - matter more than you ever did in the last century."
Noah agrees, "Why we are here is to honor and celebrate the Fourth Estate, and what you stand for. What you stand for: an additional check and balance that holds power to account and gives voice to those who otherwise wouldn't have one. Every single one of you, whether you like it or not, is a bastion of democracy. And if you ever begin to doubt your responsibilities, if you ever begin to doubt how meaningful it is, look no further than what's happening in Ukraine. Look at what's happening there. Journalists are risking - and even losing - their lives to show the world what's really happening."
It's amazing, Noah adds, "In America, you have the right to seek the truth, and speak the truth."
The Red Carpet Looks - Hits and Misses
One of the biggest celeb fashion nights of the year is on the horizon tonight with the Met Gala - and stars were gearing up for the big event at the WHCA dinner.
Some of the stars really nailed it - and some nailed the look they were going for, but maybe they missed out on the "fashion" part of the evening.
Here were the best looks of the night:
- Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson (okay this one is a bit of a hit and a miss): The pair stepped out together in their red carpet debut as a couple. Davidson kept it simple in a black suit that looked like he walked right out of g-man summer camp, and some Vans-looking shoes that scream, "Wal-Mart knockoffs." But he didn't look terrible next to the radiant Kim who wore a figure-hugging, sparkly silvery gown and loose wet tresses.
- Miranda Kerr: Kerr looked pretty in pink with a simple floor-length pink ballgown.
- Fran Drescher: Drescher eschewed a gown for a sparkly black pantsuit, and boy did she make it look good.
- Billy Eichner: There were no standouts for men's fashion over the weekend, but Eichner at least hit the mark - with a deep navy blue suit that seemed to be from 2022.
And here are some of the nights near-misses:
- Drew Barrymore: Although Drew is absolutely radiant no matter what she wears, the WHCA gown she wore evokes more "Victorian carpet" than "red carpet chic." A black metallic belt did pull the look together and she looked confident and happy - so who's to say rug isn't the next black?
- Brooke Shields: Shields looked as breathtaking as ever, but the weird dark gold gown looked a touch out of time.
- Martha Stewart: Stewart may be known for her style around the home, but she's never been accused of being a red carpet master - and that was apparent over the weekend. Stewart wore simple black slacks and a sparkly white - coat? Jacket? It looks like a playful take on a chef's coat, which is appropriate for Stewart, but she didn't quite pull it off. So it looked like she got off work in the test kitchen and headed straight for the red carpet. We stan a hustle queen though, so if that's what really happened - work it, Martha.
- Kyla Pratt: Pratt doesn't know how to look anything but gorgeous, but the gown was a big miss for us. The structured gown had some random floofs - including over the thigh-high slit on one leg, and over the opposite shoulder. It just looked a bit awkward and '80's prom dress - but it takes talent to make that look smashing, and she pulled that much off.
- Caity Lotz: Like the other stars on the "miss" list, she looks stunning. But on the floor-length plum dress - are those urchins? Poufs? Trilobites? Whatever they were, they looked a bit creepy crawly - and it detracted from the otherwise flawless silhouette and sparkling confidence she gave off.
It seems like before the pandemic, stars tended to get a little wilder with their fashion - and the "misses" were a lot farther afield. Now, everyone's a little subdued - but that could all change after the Met Gala takes off tonight.
A Return After A Few "Off" Years
It was good to see the WHCA back to its former glory.
Former president Trump wasn't comfortable with appearing in the show even before the pandemic slowed things down and changed the format temporarily. The former president was constantly at war with the media - so appearing in front of a roast helmed by their brightest does seem like a bit of a foolish move.
But whether you understand the president's hesitance before or not, it's clear that his successor does not have the same hesitations.
Biden laughed, clapped, and cringed along with everyone as Noah and others took their chance to knock the Powers That Be down a few notches - as a proper WHCA dinner should do.