Obama Brings the Jokes

Obama pokes fun at himself at first White House Correspondents' Association dinner

President Barack Obama donned a black tie Saturday to become joker in chief for a night. 

He spoke at the White House Correspondents' Association's annual black-tie dinner in Washington, which attracts a mix of politicians, celebrities and journalists.

It was a chance to jab the Washington establishment, chide critics and poke fun at himself and his administration.

"In the next hundred days I will learn to go off the prompter and Joe Biden will learn to stay on the prompter," Obama said. He also said that he would "strongly consider" losing his cool.

Speaking of his wife Michelle's penchant for sleeveless gowns, Obama said: "No matter which party you belong to we can all agree that Michelle has the right to bare arms." 

The president also joked about his relationship with former presidential rival Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In a not-so-cryptic swine flu joke, Obama said that after returning from Mexico, Clinton pulled him into a big hug and kiss.

Later, Obama mocked conservative criticism of his decision to negotiate with America's adversaries by showing a picture of him and Captain Hook in the oval office.

"Just because he handed me a copy of 'Peter Pan' doesn't mean I'm gonna read it," Obama deadpanned.  

Republicans were also a target. Obama joked that former Vice President Dick Cheney couldn't make the dinner because he was writing his memoir, "How to shoot friends and interrogate people." It was a reference to Cheney's support of harsh interrogation and his accidental shooting of a hunting companion.

"Michael Steele is in the house," Obama also said, directly addressing the Republican National Committee chairman in the crowd. "Or as he would say -- in the hizzy. Wassup!" 

Obama added: "Michael, for the last time the Republican party does not qualify for a bailout. Rush Limbaugh does not count as a troubled asset. I'm sorry." 

The president also turned serious and talked of the financially struggling media industry, praising journalists for holding government officials accountable.

He wasn't the only one telling the jokes.

Tart-tongued comic Wanda Sykes, who first made a name on TV with stints on "The Chris Rock Show" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," was booked as this year's dinner entertainer.

She has said it's her job to "poke fun and ridicule," and even a popular figure such as Obama isn't off limits. True that.

Sykes started by saying it was an honor to speak at the dinner, and she wasn't worried about screwing up. If she did Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner would give her a bonus, Sykes said.

She then ribbed Obama for appearing on magazines covers with his shirt off.

"I don't need to see your nipples," she said. "There was never a nipple portrait of Lincoln." 

The comedian also took shots at Vice President Biden, saying that were he to fall into the hands of terrorists: "We're done. They won't even have to torture him All they'll have to say is 'how's it going Joe.' They'll come back with stacks of information." 

Sykes then turned her sights on First Lady Michelle Obama for touching the Queen of England on a recent trip overseas.

"You can't do that," Sykes said. "You went patting the queen on the back like she just slid into home plate — way to go, queen!" 

And what was up with giving the queen an iPod, Sykes said. Instead, the Obamas should have left her better "memento of the country -- Texas."

Sykes saved her harshest digs for conservatives.

She chided some Republican governors for refusing to accept stimulus dollars, and suggested that the White House enlist the services of someone particularly skilled at giving away free stuff -- talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

Sykes said that Dick Cheney was a "scary man," and she would rather put her kids a car with a stranger than with the former vice president.

"You can't defend torture," she said. "That's like me robbing the bank...that's like me going before a judge and saying 'yes your honor, I robbed the bank, but look at all these bills I paid." 

Sykes also took on Limbaugh, accusing him of treason for hoping the president's administration failed.

“I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker, but he was just strung out on OxyContin and missed his flight,” she said, a joke that seemed to bomb. "Too much?” she said next.

Apparently not. She concluded her riff by saying: “Rush Limbaugh. ‘I hope the country fails’? I hope his kidneys fail, how about that? He needs some more waterboarding, that’s what he needs.”

The $200-per-ticket dinner attracted plenty of VIPs from outside the Beltway.

Among those attending were Eva Longoria Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Christian Slater, Natalie Portman, Sting, Mariska Hargitay, Steven Spielberg and Jon Bon Jovi.

Also there were hero pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who successfully landed his jetliner in the Hudson River without loss of life, and Richard Phillips, who was held hostage by Somali pirates after his cargo ship was attacked.

Proceeds from the dinner will help feed the hungry and fund journalism scholarships. The association will donate more than $23,000 to the charity So Others Might Eat, including money raised by skipping formal dessert for guests.

The White House Correspondents Association was formed in 1914 as a liaison between the press and the president. Every president since Calvin Coolidge has attended the dinner.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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