The rap on all those Washington media-political dinners is that they’re an unseemly display of coziness between government and the fourth estate. Yeah, well, “cozy” does not always equal “comfortable.”
At the Radio & Television Congressional Correspondents’ dinner Friday, guests were treated to a video clip of CBS’s Steve Kroft — recipient of a prize that night for his “60 Minutes” report on potential insider trading in Congress — hammering at House Speaker John Boehner over insurance stocks he bought during the health-care debate.
Awwwkward silence as every head in the room turned to stare at the night’s honored guest: John Boehner.
Well, that’s one way to set your dinner apart!
The annual gathering of the Radio & Television Correspondents’ Association has long struggled to emerge from the shadow of the bigger White House Correspondents’ dinner. It’s become a greater challenge in recent years, as the WHCD has increasingly drawn a parade of Hollywood guests and a deluge of media coverage; meanwhile, black-tie-averse President Obama hasn’t accepted an RTCA invitation since 2009.
This year, the RTCA seemed to embrace its oddball status. “We are the celebrity-free dinner!” Jay McMichael, a cameraman for CNN and this year’s association president, proclaimed from the dais. Instead, there was the Howard University drum line filling the cavernous Washington Convention Center ballroom with a thunderous beat; also, the country-western stylings of Ayla Brown, Sen. Scott Brown’s daughter, singing through dinner. And jugs of Chocolate City ale on the tables next to the wine. “I’m the camera guy,” said McMichael, “and it’s the camera-guy dinner, so we’re having beer.”
All right then! While WHCA dinners usually feature stand-up comedians honing their best current-events shtick for D.C., the RTCA had improv comic/singer Wayne Brady doing a routine that would have worked just as well in Vegas — largely free of politics, except for a freestyle rap that found rhymes for “sequestration,” “filibuster” and “Wolf Blitzer.”
And while the presidents generally enlist slick comedy writers to prepare their WHCA routines, this year’s RTCA had Boehner — who, his staff had warned, does not do funny. Instead, Boehner snarled amiably at the journalists in the room.
“Loudmouth Luke Russert,” Boehner said, apropos of nothing. “You know he’s so rude, so loud. He’s taller than everybody. He’s louder than everybody. Behave yourself, Junior. Behave yourself.”
(Wait no longer for the punchline: That was it.)
Boehner also joked that doing a sit-down interview with MSNBC liberal firebrand Ed Schultz would be “my idea of a grand bargain,” but don’t laugh too hard, he warned, “Ed’s having a really tough week.”
Pause. “I don’t watch him, so I don’t know,” Boehner growled. “That’s what my staff told me to say.”
As a thank-you gift, McMichael said he wanted to get Boehner a nice bottle of merlot — but then realized that “there’s a $10 limit on the gifts we can give to members of Congress.” He handed the speaker a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20. “We went to 7-Eleven,” he joked. “The guy tells us this tastes just like merlot.” It got a good laugh. Some stuff is funnier when the president’s not around.
Read earlier: Wayne Brady: Safer pick for RTCA dinner than Louis C.K., 4/3/12
From last year: Anthony Weiner kills at RTCA dinner, 3/31/11
See the entire dinner for yourself via C-SPAN. . . .
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