Every year, the Washington press corps gets gussied up in their finest finery, ropes in a few unsuspecting celebrities and invites a comedian to perform for a large group of people with no sense of humor. The annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, known with faux self-deprecation as the “Nerd Prom,” took place on Saturday, with “Saturday Night Live” cast member and former “Weekend Update” co-anchor doing the let’s-just-call-them honors. Strong, with the help of a group of writers from “SNL,” “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” got off a few zingers, namely telling President Obama his hair is now “so white it can talk back to the police” and identifying the Secret Service as “the only law enforcement agency that will get in trouble if a black man gets shot.” (Incidentally, while the Washington press corps was hobnobbing with the people they cover, real news was breaking not far away in Baltimore, where protests against police brutality turned violent. CNN announced they would not be cutting away from the dinner, and that viewers should seek out information online.) But the real entertainment value in watching the WHCD was in the cutaways to the audience, which generally regarded Strong, to quote the late comedian Bill Hicks, like a dog that’s just been shown a card trick. Some guests looked angry:
Some were puzzled:
Some outright baffled:
It wasn’t just Strong, either. Here’s the crowd non-reacting when Keegan-Michael Key, reprising his “Anger Translator” bit from “Key & Peele” with the real President Obama, dropped a “Game of Thrones” reference, heralding Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign with “Khaleesi is coming to Westeros!”
Who is coming to what now?
But none seemed humorless as Wolf Blitzer, who could barely conceal his simmering contempt when Strong dared to make CNN the butt of the joke.
Here, Blitzer closes his eyes as if suffering the weight of an unknowable burden:
Here he folds his arms in pointed contrast to Jane Fonda, whom he seemed so happy with on the red carpet before the whole shebang kicked off. Given that Ted Turner is Blitzer’s ex-boss and Fonda’s ex-husband, perhaps it’s not surprising she’s more receptive to jokes at his expense, but even so it’s pretty clear which of them you’d want to hang out with given the chance.
The toughest person in the crowd wasn’t Wolf Blitzer, though. It was Strong’s “SNL” boss Lorne Michaels, who merely turned up the corners of his cheeks while those around him erupted in laughter.
It’s often said that comedians don’t laugh at other comics; they just nod and say, “Funny.” See if you can get through Strong and Key’s routines without cracking a smile. If you can, a career in Washington may be for you.