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Obama turns entertainer – but not everyone approves

The President displayed his talent for stand-up at the annual White House correspondents' dinner

It was the annual White House correspondents' dinner on Saturday, hosted by the late-night talk star Jimmy Kimmel, and the Comedian-in-Chief Barack Obama didn't waste the opportunity, poking fun at himself and his administration (a little) and at his foes in the overheated political chamber of an American election year (a lot).

The jokes – and the audience including the likes of George Clooney and Lindsay Lohan seemed to get them all – began even before he arrived at the podium in a Washington hotel ballroom. Lampooning his recent clanger being caught on a "hot mic" talking privately to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, he was heard muttering: "What am I doing here? I'm opening for Jimmy Kimmel and telling knock-knock jokes to Kim Kardashian."

Other gags included a faux political ad for Mitt Romney, now the all-but certain Republican challenger in November, referencing the time he put his dog on the car roof during a family holiday. It showed Mr Romney proudly posing on the steps to Air Force One with a dog crate attached to the fuselage just behind the cockpit.

A little nostalgia for the 2008 campaign crept in also. Evoking Sarah Palin's line about pit bulls and lipstick at the Republican convention that year, as well as recent rumours that he ate dog meat in Indonesia as a child, Mr Obama asked: "What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?" The answer: A pit bull is delicious."

Mr Obama then seemed to recall that last year's dinner had coincided with the killing of Osama bin Laden. "We finally delivered justice to one of the world's most notorious individuals," he said, before images not of Bin Laden but Donald Trump appeared on overhead screens. (Mr Trump was skewered by Mr Obama at the 2011 dinner.)

Established by the White House Correspondents' Association in 1920, the annual dinner is a ritual in the Washington calendar, and every President is expected to show off their funny bone. And if they don't naturally have one, the speech writers will find it for them.

This year it came just as officials in the Romney campaign were criticising Mr Obama as too frivolous after a similarly light-hearted performance "slow-jamming" his position on student loans on the set of another late-night host, Jimmy Fallon, last week. Fallon rechristened him that night the "Preezie of the United Steezie".

"There's something a little bit off-key about the President appearing to make light of the fact that students are struggling either with loans ... or they're graduating with an uncertain job market," a senior Romney aide, Eric Fehrnstrom, said at the weekend.

If it is the famously stiff Mr Romney who wins in November, it will be standing room only at next April's dinner to see if he has hidden comic skills. But this is 2012 and the stage was all Mr Obama's. As he surveyed the giant ballroom in the Washington Hilton he suggested it was pretty grand, or "what Mitt Romney would call a little fixer-upper".