Pres­i­dent dishes it out at cor­re­spon­dents’ din­ner

Los Angeles Times - - MONDAY BUSINESS - By Michael A. Me­moli michael.me­moli@la­times.com

WASH­ING­TON — The fi­nal years of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­vided the back­drop for laughs at the an­nual White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ Assn. din­ner, with the pres­i­dent flash­ing a lit­tle anger and pok­ing fun at Repub­li­cans, and en­ter­tainer Ce­cily Strong tak­ing some pointed jabs at the com­man­der in chief.

“‘Satur­day Night Live’ got crit­i­cized this year for mak­ing fun of ISIS,” said Strong, a cast mem­ber of the NBC com­edy show. “Now I think that’s un­fair. I mean, if any­one is guilty of tak­ing ISIS too lightly it’s ... umm, you know,” she con­tin­ued, nod­ding at the pres­i­dent.

The din­ner has be­come one of Wash­ing­ton’s high­est­pro­file events, bring­ing to­gether power play­ers, jour­nal­ists and some big Hol­ly­wood names for some laughs. And Pres­i­dent Obama has en­joyed us­ing what his aides call the “State of the Union of jokes” to tweak the me­dia and the GOP.

“A few weeks ago, Dick Cheney says he thinks I’m the worst pres­i­dent of his life­time. Which is in­ter­est­ing, be­cause I think Dick Cheney is the worst pres­i­dent of my life­time,” he said.

“Just this week, Michele Bach­mann ac­tu­ally pre­dicted that I would bring about the bi­b­li­cal end of days. Now that’s a le­gacy!” he said. “Lin­coln, Wash­ing­ton — they didn’t do that.”

Obama and Strong also poked fun at the large cast of Repub­li­cans mak­ing pres­i­den­tial runs, and at the dom­i­nant front-run­ner sta­tus of Demo­cratic con­tender Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton.

“Feels right to have a woman fol­low Pres­i­dent Obama, doesn’t it?” Strong said as she started her bit, which was af­ter Obama’s.

Strong seemed un­fazed by the pres­sure of go­ing on af­ter him. Af­ter jok­ing about re­cent Se­cret Ser­vice prob­lems, she urged the au­di­ence to give the agency the ben­e­fit of the doubt. “They’re the only law en­force­ment agency in the coun­try that will get in trou­ble if a black man gets shot,” she said.

Later, Strong noted Obama’s ap­proval rat­ing was at 48%, but his gray hair was at 85%. “Your hair is so white now it can talk back to the po­lice,” she said, a joke the pres­i­dent seemed to en­joy far more than the for­mer.

Teas­ing the pres­i­dent while dis­cussing their shared Chicago roots, Strong joked that the two used to shoot hoops to­gether. “I’d lace up a pair of Jor­dans; he’d slip on a pair of my mom’s jeans. We would just miss 3-point­ers un­til sun­down when, of course, we’d have to stop and pray to Mecca,” she said.

The stand­out mo­ment came at the end of Obama’s act, when Kee­gan-Michael Key of Com­edy Cen­tral’s “Key and Peele” came out to act as his “anger trans­la­tor.”

Af­ter coolly de­liv­er­ing some lines that Key em­bel­lished, Obama grew more heated while dis­cussing cli­mate change and the GOP’s un­will­ing­ness to ad­dress it.

“Miami floods on a sunny day, and in­stead of do­ing any­thing about it, we’ve got elected of­fi­cials throw­ing snow­balls in the Se­nate!” Obama said, his voice ris­ing.

Key in­ter­jected: “OK, Mr. Pres­i­dent. OK, I think they’ve got it, bro.”

But Obama con­tin­ued: “It is crazy! What about our kids? What kind of stupid, short­sighted, ir­re­spon­si­ble bull —”

“All due re­spect, sir, you don’t need an anger trans­la­tor,” Key in­ter­rupted. “You need coun­sel­ing.”

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