A guy who seldom shows his face in Washington stole the entire show at Saturday night’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner. Barack Obama’s ‘Anger Translator’ Luther made a memorable appearance to help translate what the President is REALLY thinking when he normally seems so cool under pressure. Portrayed by Keegan-Michael Key, who created the character for his sketch comedy show “Key And Peele”, Luther took aim at everyone from Hillary Clinton to sweaty people on trains.
As Obama continued his increasingly strident ‘tirade’, even Luther felt the need to step out of line, and calm the President down, As Luther left the stage, he paused to speak with First Lady Michele Obama, and managed to pantomime his feeling the President might be crazy, much to her delight
But as great as Luther was, Obama did just fine on his own. Not only did he tweak Clinton several times about her candidacy, and her e-mail scandal, he took aim at Republicans, past and present, exclaiming that Dick Cheney was the “worst President in my lifetime”, and making light of Michelle Bachmann’s proclamation recently that he might be the cause of the Biblical end times. “Now, THAT’s a Legacy”, the President joked, to raucous laughter from at least part of the large ballroom.
There were also the usual targets like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and The Koch Brothers not exactly getting a lot of bang for their bucks in GOP candidates. But Obama didn’t spare himself either, marveling at the accomplishments of his administration, “while still finding time to pray five times a day.”
While Obama scored well, the evening’s entertainer Cecily Strong, was at best, hit or miss. Strong is very funny with sketch material on SNL, but as a stand-up, she fell into a few traps that helped her dig a hole too big to emerge from completely. But Strong did manage a few good shots that hit the mark, managing to skewer the Secret Service, and police with the line, “The Secret Service is the only police agency in America who will get in trouble if a black man gets shot”, which elicited quite a response from the crowd. She also scored big with a reporter’s oath, swearing to not do stories on Hillary’s appearance.
All-in all, Strong began well, but as a friend of mine noted, she lapsed into her SNL Weekend Update mode, which didn’t really work with her material. The rhythm was off, and it showed. On a scale of 1 to 10, give her a five for the evening, while Obama scored at least an eight. It’s clear the President is more relaxed as his time in office winds down-at least when it comes to things like this dinner-and has fewer reservations, while not pulling his punches.
It was a bit bizarre to watch the CSPAN coverage which essentially offered two hours of the Washington elite having dinner before anything happened of note. It seemed at times like a Yoko Ono art exhibit that no one really understood, but it’s a ritual that for some reason has become spectacle. for decades the dinner was a niche evening for those in Washington power circles. In the 90′s CSPAN decided to televise the event, and it’s become the journalistic equivalent of the Emmys, with a side dish of Dean Martin Roasts.
Next year, find a real stand-up with a knowledge of politics to host this thing. It’s a Presidential Election year, so don’t get cute. Bring back John Stewart or Stephen Colbert.