Barack Obama shows his comedy timing at White House dinner

Even his political enemies would concede that the US President tells a mean joke – as he proved again at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. Tim Walker enjoyed the jokes

President Barack Obama poked fun at the press, his political rivals and his own healthcare policy on Saturday night, as he spoke at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

The event, held each year in Washington DC, brings together politicians, newsmakers and a selection of screen and sporting stars ostensibly to honour the year’s finest journalism – though many see it merely as an opportunity for schmoozing.

For President Obama, it offers a chance to show off his impeccable comic timing, and he began by acknowledging that he had had a “rough” 12 months. Referring to the botched roll-out of Healthcare.gov, the web portal where Americans were directed to sign up for the new Obamacare medical insurance plans, he said: “In 2008 my slogan was ‘Yes we can!’; in 2013 my slogan was ‘Control+Alt+Delete’.”

This was the first time that the dinner had been broadcast live on CNN, and the news network was another target – specifically, its round-the-clock coverage of the hunt for the missing Malaysian Airlines jetliner. “I am happy to be here, even though I am a little jet-lagged from my trip to Malaysia,” the President said, of his recent official visit to Asia. “The lengths we have to go to get CNN coverage these days!”

Joking about the so-called “birther” theory – that he was born in Africa, and therefore ineligible for the presidency – Mr Obama noted, “Just last month, an American won the Boston marathon for the first time in 30 years, which was inspiring and only fair since a Kenyan has been President for the last six.” Later, addressing the contingent from the Fox News network, he said: “Let’s face it Fox, you’ll miss me when I’m gone – it’ll be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya.”

While some comments might have been bad publicity for the news networks, HBO received some free advertising when Mr Obama showed a picture of himself sitting in the Oval Office in a new chair: the Iron Throne from HBO’s Game of Thrones.

The White House Correspondents’ Association is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and the first dinner was held in 1920. Its celebrity guest list grew significantly during the Clinton presidency, and this year the Hollywood stars included Robert De Niro, Lupita Nyong’o and Sofia Vergara. The dinner also drew big names from Silicon Valley, including Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who attended with stars of his firm’s DC-based drama House of Cards.

The event, known to some in Washington as “nerd prom”, has been criticised for encouraging uncomfortably cosy relations between journalists and the politicians.

Each year the event features a comedian, invited to toast and roast the other guests. This year the job fell to Joel McHale, star of the sitcom Community, whose jokes drew a mixture of laughs and grimaces. He began by saying his speech would be “amusing and over quickly – just like Chris Christie’s presidential bid”.

Like President Obama, Mr McHale made fun of the bungled Obamacare roll-out. “The launch of Healthcare.gov was a disaster. It was so bad,” he said. “I don’t even have an analogy because the website is now the thing people use to describe other bad things. They say things like, ‘I shouldn’t have eaten that sushi, because I was up all night HealthCare.gov-ing’… ‘Boy, that latest Johnny Depp movie really Healthcare.gov’d at the box office’.”

Concluding his own address, Mr Obama cued a video thanking the Correspondents’ Association, but the projector appeared to freeze, prompting the President to ask: “Does anybody know how to fix this?” Kathleen Sebelius, the former Health Secretary, who recently fell on her sword after bearing the brunt of the criticism over the Healthcare.gov debacle, rushed onstage with a laptop. “I got this,” she said. “I see it all the time.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test