The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is when the president can loosen up a little and actually say what he’s been wanting to have Josh Earnest say for the past 20 press conferences and never could, or touch on the subjects that everyone in the press talks about but gets very little political air time.
This year’s dinner was no exception, and President Obama was even more direct about the joke than ever, having his “anger translator” Luther (played by Keegan-Michael Key) fill in his flat and politically correct statements with the bubbling fury beneath. This is a reference to a 2012 skit from Key & Peele in which Luther “translated” for Obama to clear up any confusion the public might have over the president’s seemingly cold and unfeeling exterior.
It’s rather appropriate punchline, given the nature of the dinner. Let’s take a look at some of the funniest and most cathartic highlights from the evening with the press, as well as Obama’s more unrestrained counterpart.
This probably isn’t on everyone’s list of favorite comments, but given the amount of commentary on the vice president’s rather handsy persona, it was hilarious for sheer necessity. Biden does not seem to understand the concept of personal space, and it’s been the subject of much discussion.
“Creepy” is often the word that gets used, despite the fact that Biden apparently spreads the unfortunate trait around to everyone, from young children to older women in Congress. At a certain point, one has to wonder: Hasn’t anyone mentioned this to him?
Apparently, and unsurprisingly, the White House is not unaware of the criticism, though how serious a concern Obama takes it as is pretty apparent, joking: “The fact is, I feel more loose and relaxed than ever. Those Joe Biden shoulder messages, they’re like magic. You should try one. Oh, you have.”
Whether or not you like Game of Thrones, Obama’s straightforward remarks regarding Hillary Clinton’s decision to run for president in 2016, as retold by his anger translator, were enjoyable. For those who aren’t fans of Hillary, at least there’s comfort that the joke holds her accountable for campaign fundraising that is just as money-hungry as competitors.
“And it’s not just Republicans. Hillary will have to raise huge sums of money, too,” said Obama, followed by Luther’s translation of: “Oh, yes. She’s gonna get that money. She’s gonna get all the money. Khaleesi is coming to Westeros. So watch out!”
The bucket list — this is about as close to the F-bomb as any president can get away with. Not that past presidents haven’t used a few obscenities in their entirety, but it’s the intentional nature of Obama’s comments that make them so funny. “I have something that rhymes with bucket list,” said the president. “Take executive action on immigration? Bucket. New climate regulations? Bucket. It’s the right thing to do.”
For those watching the back-and-forth between the GOP and the Obama administration, it’s a particularly salient description, given that both actions only served to further inflame an already less-than-friendly relationship.
The joke that never gets old
OK, the constant questioning of Obama’s nationality and his religion actually does get old, but his jokes about it don’t. After all, if you have to deal with that degree of abuse over an imagined conspiracy, at the very least, you’re allowed to milk it for all the ridiculousness it has to offer.
“Being president is never easy. I still have to fix a broken immigration system, issue veto threats, negotiate with Iran — all while finding time to pray five times a day. Which is strenuous,” joked Obama, referencing the rumors that he is secretly a Muslim but has chosen to lie about his religious beliefs. He also got a joke in about his problem-causing name, admitting that while he raised a great deal of money to fund his own presidential campaign, “in all fairness, my middle name is Hussein.”
Perhaps the final item on this list has to be Obama’s rant about environmental conservation. “It is crazy! What about our kids? What kind of stupid, shortsighted, irresponsible bull–,” soon after followed by Luther’s cautionary: “All due respect, sir. You don’t need an anger translator. You need counseling,” mouthing, “He crazy” at Michelle Obama.