Just in case Donald Trump's purported bid to become President of the United States looked in danger of getting serious, Barack Obama took the opportunity of the annual White House Correspondents dinner to give his putative rival a comedic skewering – with Trump in the room, stony-faced as quip after quip hit home.
President Obama flashed up a picture of a Trump White House turned into a gaudy casino-hotel, complete with a whirlpool and blonde models cavorting on the front lawn, to the raucous amusement of the nation's senior political reporters.
For all the belly laughs, there was a serious purpose. The audience consisted of just the gaggle of writers who have seemed in danger of treating Mr Trump's presidential aspirations as a credible story in the past month.
It was only last week that Mr Trump's stirring of the so-called "birther" controversy, the conspiracy theory that suggested Mr Obama was not born in the US and therefore was not eligible to inhabit the White House, prompted the administration to publish the president's long-form birth certificate.
And while Mr Obama said then that he had no time for such "silliness", there was room enough at the annual reporters' shindig in Washington to make a joke of the birthers and their insistence, in contravention of all fact and sense, that the president was born in Africa or Indonesia.
He said that Mr Trump could be proud of having forced the birth certificate into the open, so that the Trump campaign could "finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like did we fake the moon landing?"
Mr Trump, attending the dinner as a guest of The Washington Post, sat motionless and expressionless as the president's pounding continued. The correspondents' dinner, usually a tame affair, had not seen such a pointed and uncomfortable roasting since the comedian Stephen Colbert lambasted George W Bush as the then-president was sitting right next to him.
Mr Obama used Mr Trump less as a mere punchline, more an all-out punchbag. He belittled the mogul's claims to leadership, making jokey references to the agony of choosing who to fire as host of The Apprentice. "These are the decisions that would keep me up at night," Mr Obama said. "Well handled, sir. Well handled."
And if Mr Trump thought he could relax after the president sat down, he was mistaken: when Saturday Night Live star Seth Meyers stood to speak, it got even worse. Mr Meyers opened by noting that Mr Trump claims he is considering "running for president as a Republican. Which is surprising, because I thought he was running as a joke." By the time Mr Meyers sat down, he was.
The correspondents' dinner is always one of the hottest tickets in Washington. It isn't always a venue for a masterclass in political comedy. But this year appears to have been a classic and both Mr Obama and Mr Meyers had the audience, stuffed with celebrities and hangers-on, rocking with laughter.
But Mr Obama was ribbed, too, by Mr Meyers – and often pointedly. The comedian pointed out how the shine has come off the president and office has aged him – "Look at your hair. If your hair gets any whiter, the Tea Party is going to endorse it".
And the comedian concluded with speculation about his coming re-election campaign. "I'll tell you who could beat you: 2008 Barack Obama," he said. "You would have loved him."
Obama (and Co's) best lines
No one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald. He can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter. Like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?
Donald Trump has said he's running for president as a Republican. Which is surprising, because I thought he was running as a joke. Donald Trump owns the Miss USA pageant, which is great forRepublicans because it will streamline their search for a vice-president. Donald Trump said recently that he has a great relationship with the blacks. But unless the Blacks are a family of white people, I'll bet he's mistakenReuse content