A team of reporters and bloggers covered the 99th annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday, bringing you live updates from the Washington Hilton/celebrity petting zoo and analysis of Conan O’Brien and President Obama’s best zingers and flattest jokes.
Track the best of social media from the pre-parties, after-parties and everything in between on our White House Correspondents’ Dinner Grid.
Conan O’Brien just wrapped up his remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, finishing a largely tepid routine that didn’t particularly wow the crowd or this viewer.
It should be noted that I am a big Conan fan (is such a disclosure necessary? Just in case), and I had very high hopes for his performance tonight. But he didn’t seem to rise above the level of a typical late-night monologue, delivering a series of jokes that were neither incisive nor memorable.
There were jokes about CNN reporting incorrect news and about the Huffington Post being a slideshow repository to go along with jokes about the NRA, the whiteness of President Obama’s Cabinet and, bizarrely, Hilton hotels. (Did the Hilton chain wrong Conan at some point in the past? Did they take their advertising away from “The Tonight Show” when he took over or something?)
Perhaps a part of that comes from having a tough act to follow. President Obama has shown at events like these and others that he can skillfully deliver the lines his writers craft, which could have set a slightly higher bar for Conan. But other comedians — most notably Seth Meyers in 2011 — did not seem slowed by this. So in the end, it seems like Conan simply didn’t have a good night.
At least one outlet seemed to like the jokes, because it let them share a link to a story Conan specifically mocked during his remarks:
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) April 28, 2013
While the White House Correspondents’ Dinner continues at the Hilton, the BuzzFeed party is still going on a few blocks away in Adams Morgan.
Cara Kelly at the BuzzFeed party reports that there haven’t been any mentions of the dinner, nor any attempts to watch it. The party at Jack Rose has now expanded to the upstairs portion of the bar, with heavy crowds upstairs and downstairs, Kelly reports.
Conan O’Brien’s jokes about CNN, Twitter, governmental dysfunction and the Washington Hilton (quite a few jokes about the Hilton) received … well, mixed reviews on social media.
Here are some initial responses seen on Twitter:
We all agree that Conan is tanking, right? Not even close to Seth Myers.
— IanShapira (@ianshapira) April 28, 2013
Conan knows his voice is already amplified by the microphone, right? #whcd
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) April 28, 2013
Note to #WHCD: Maybe we just forget about a “headliner” for the next couple years?
— aarongell (@aarongell) April 28, 2013
Even Conan’s hair is flopping.
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) April 28, 2013
But at least some people seem to be enjoying it:
Taft joke dies. Unsophisticated crowd. #whcd
— HuffPostComedy (@HuffPostComedy) April 28, 2013
And immediately sets to lambasting everyone holding a mobile device at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
“If any of you are live-Tweeting the event, please use the hashtag #incapableoflivinginthemoment.”
— POLITICO (@politico) April 28, 2013
President Obama praised Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln,” mentioning that working on that film had led the two to their next collaboration: “Obama,” a biopic with Day-Lewis playing Obama.
The White House had this up on YouTube within minutes of it airing at the correspondents’ dinner:
Was President Obama’s famous skeet shooting picture photoshopped? You bet. This, he announces at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, was the real version.
President Obama, claiming he’s decided to take a page from popular Michelle’s playbook, has unleashed a vision of a world in which he has bangs. Supermeme in the works.
President Obama now joins the chorus of people who mocked CNN for the network’s problematic coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing last week.
“I admire CNN’s commitment to cover all sides of the story, in case one happens to be accurate,” he said.
It’s early, but expect to see this line in many of the write-ups of tonight’s event: “I look in the mirror and I have to admit, I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be,” President Obama said.
President Obama stood at the microphone shortly before 10:15 p.m. and began his remarks. He began with a joke about self-deprecating jokes before thanking the correspondents’ association and the men and women of the armed forces. We will bring you the best jokes and any relevant GIFs.
Conan O’Brien is making his second appearance on the stage of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but he just made a first for the group holding the dinner.
Ed Henry, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said in his opening remarks that Conan is the first host to ever turn down payment for his performance.
The comedian declined the $10,000 payment, instead directing it to a scholarship fund, Henry said.
Solidifying the “House of Cards” lock on Beltway humor, speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner kicked off with a video montage featuring the show’s star, Kevin Spacey.
“You all came together to make this spoof,” growled Spacey, in character as Frank Underwood, to the audience. “That’s what real bipartisanship looks like.”
Also featured: Cameos from Valerie Jarrett, Steny Hoyer, John McCain and other brand-name pols and journos, pretending to haggle over seating arrangements and celebriguests.
Robert Griffin III, perhaps the most popular athlete in the D.C. area, reportedly did not attend.
The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz reported that RGIII had tickets for himself, his wife and agent and failed to show up. (Apologies in advance for the language in this tweet, which may be harmful to your eyes and/or brain.)
Breaking! RG III throws NBC for a loss by bailing on dinner- and he had tickets for his wife AND agent. Quarterback sneak #whcd
— HowardKurtz (@HowardKurtz) April 28, 2013
My colleague Cara Kelly reports from the BuzzFeed party with — you know what, rather than explain what is going on, just look at this Cinemagram she sent:
“Oh, is this C-SPAN?” The Daily Show’s John Oliver, cheerfully attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner’s garden party, turns to the camera and waves.
And we watch him wave to us. We watch him on C-SPAN.
When do we ever watch C-SPAN? If someone is filibustering, or filiblustering. If the House is voting on something big — something really enormous. If we are reclined on the sofa, hyped on Theraflu, we might be lulled to sleep by the hushed quietude of C-SPAN’s Book TV, but otherwise, C-SPANis the tagalong channel we did not ask to be included with our television package.
It is bare bones. It is demure. It never seems hi-def, always seems low-budget. Its subdued morning shows are exactly the opposite of what we have come to expect from morning shows (Savannah Guthrie, chipper, in jewel tones). It’s a station created as a public service, and that’s how it comes across: dutiful.
And yet, for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, C-SPAN becomes must-see TV, at least for the people who enjoy watching Bob Schieffer tete-a-tete with Claire Danes, Jon Bon Jovi with Ariana Huffington, Bradley Cooper and Chris Dodd.
Look at you, C-SPAN, with the cheeky #nerdprom hashtag you are promoting on Twitter. Look at you, C-SPAN, interspersing red-carpet arrivals with a serious George Condon interview, forcing us to eat spinach with our ice cream.
Watch C-SPAN. Watch on.
The best thing about the correspondents’ dinner is having all of these celebrities and media members in the same area, which often prompts celebrities to reveal very personal things:
Sharon Stone told me she’s wearing clothes out of her closet and jewels out of her jewelry box. twitter.com/brikeilarcnn/s…
— Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) April 27, 2013
My colleague Cara Kelly reports from Jack Rose Dining Saloon, where BuzzFeed set up a rival party less than half a mile from the correspondents’ dinner.
This party sounds like an actual party, according to Kelly. People are dancing, songs by Usher are playing and C-SPAN is on in the background (… so maybe it’s not exactly like an actual party).
Kelly reports that at one point, the line was at least 30 people long, prompting people to sneak in through the kitchen.
President Obama isn’t scheduled to speak until after 10 p.m. Will he refer to the recent tragedies in Boston and West, Tex.?
Our colleague Manuel Roig-Franzia wrote this week about the difficulty of being funny even on the heels of tragedy.
The Shtick Archives are the files of White House comedy writers, and they get filled with jokes that presidents never told because of a recent national tragedy, rendering one-liners and sight gags inappropriate. President Obama might be facing one of those moments Saturday night. He and his advisers will have to decide whether to crack jokes at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner or play it straight, with memories of the horrors at the Boston Marathon and West, Tex., still fresh.
The pool report, filed by Joseph Straw of the New York Daily News, notes that President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama entered the ballroom about 8:15 p.m.
But according to C-SPAN’s chyron, Obama and Conan O’Brien won’t begin making any jokes until 10:15 p.m. So right now, when C-SPAN isn’t showing live footage of sidewalks in Adams Morgan, it is just showing people chatting and eating.
Not every media organization with political reporters is hunkered down at the Hilton right now. BuzzFeed, which rose to prominence during the 2012 election, is hosting a rival party elsewhere in D.C. after not getting a table at the main dinner.
BuzzFeed applied for a table at the dinner but was rebuffed. The White House Correspondents’ Association told The Washington Post that the rejection stemmed from BuzzFeed applying too late.
So instead, BuzzFeed is having a party at Jack Rose Dining Saloon, an Adams Morgan bar less than half a mile from the Hilton.
My colleague Cara Ann Kelly reports that the crowd outside Jack Rose was very heavy by 8:15 p.m. She also shared this photo of the line stretching along the sidewalk outside the bar:
Meanwhile, a C-SPAN camera crew set up shop outside the bar to show the lengthy line. While the cameras panned up and down the line on 18th Street, Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, was interviewed on C-SPAN. (During the discussion, he was asked to explain what BuzzFeed is.)
The President and First Lady arrived at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner at 8:15. Michelle Obama, often seen in brightly-colored gowns, opted tonight for a glittery black dress with capped sleeves and, per usual, splendid biceps.
Voila, FLOTUS and Conan O’Brien, in this photo from CSpan
— CSPAN (@cspan) April 28, 2013
The prime seats in the house, according to our colleague Amy Argetsinger, went to Bloomberg (with guests Barbra Streisand, Mark Warner and Kevin Spacey) and NBC (with guests Michael Douglas and Valerie Jarrett), both of which had tables a stone’s throw from the president’s head table.
The celebrity contingent seemed, if not smaller, just of slightly muted wattage, the Kardashian-level spectacles replaced by well-bred TV drama stars who almost blended in with the more photogenic of our media heavyweights. (And vice-versa: ”Is that Josh Hutcherson?” a K Street strategist asked, pointing to a young man with the well-groomed looks of a “Hunger Games” ingenue. No, that’s Chris Hughes, publisher of the New Republic.)
For more, head to this post.
My colleague Cory Haik just shared this photo of the massive, buzzing crowd at the correspondents’ dinner:
Overheard at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: “This is my fourth year. I will say it will probably be my last. It’s getting really hectic.”
He has also created for himself a human barricade “so he can have a conversation.”
The celebrities have been brought forth to Washington to be ogled, and yet some of them refuse the attention.
Psy, the Korean pop star known for his flamboyant Gangnam Style, was having a shy moment at the Atlantic CBS party on the terrace of the Hilton. Hiding behind the step and repeat, his publicist shielded him from cameras so no onlookers could speak to him or take photos.
(Our former colleague Felicia Sonmez snuck one anyway):
Some celebrities were similarly unwilling to indulge camera phones. Amy Poehler politely said no because “she was eating.” (She was not eating.) Katy Perry refused interviews with The Washington Post video team at The Washington Post’s own party. Clare Danes reluctantly agreed to a few photos but in a move of defiance, she refused to smile.
We shan’t post that horrifying Kevin Ware screen grab (you know). We shall only post this image, taken by our colleague Veronica Toney, of the Louisville basketballer, poised and healed and on crutches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Josh Radnor, who stars on the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” is attending the dinner with the Creative Coalition.
The nonprofit group tries to convince elected officials to spend more money on art in schools.
When asked how the D.C. scene differs from L.A., Radnor said, “At the moment not very different. … Actually, this is more socially intense.”
(Above, Josh Radnor meets Katy Perry.)
Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen of the IFC show “Portlandia” are in town for the dinner. My colleague Veronica Toney took this photo from the event:
Last year, the “Portlandia” live show came through D.C. The Washington Post’s Dan Zak attended it and was … not a fan:
Thirty-six dollars for half-hearted retreads of musical numbers from the show, a “trilogy” of short sketch videos with zero laughs and a Q&A session during which Washingtonians asked stars Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein what it’s like to work with Kyle McLachlan, what it’s like to work with Kristen Wiig and “Are you two having sex?” The co-stars, who seemed uninterested in their own show, couldn’t come up with a pithy rejoinder to that question. The resulting awkwardness tipped the show from rambling pastiche to an ill-conceived, half-baked, rudderless, 80-minute chat about nothing.
People who come to D.C. for the correspondents’ dinner obviously don’t just attend the dinner. They go to pre-parties, after-parties and all sorts of other celebrations.
And at some of these events, they get insane, mind-boggling amounts of swag.
My colleague Karen Tumulty reported about “a disgorged swag bag” from a Time/People cocktail party held at the St. Regis on Friday. This bag weighed in at 20.6 pounds and contained … well, it contained a lot of things.
You can see the bag’s contents below, or you can head over to ThingLink to learn more about what goodies are being given out.
There’s a special sympatico (call it the “House of Cards” effect) between Washington and the Hollywood celebrities who channel Washington on politically-themed shows.
“Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfuss just arrived at the White House Correspondents’ dinner in strapless purple lace. One hopes she’s taking notes for an upcoming WHCD-themed episode of the HBO show, in which she plays hapless, striving vice president Selena Meyer.
Here’s Hank Stuever’s recent profile of Louis-Dreyfus.
Other Washington-in-Hollywood-in-Washington celebs here tonight? Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”) and Kerry Washington (“Scandal”).
“House of Cards,” the show that transfixed upper-middle-class Red Line Washington this spring (The show that launched a thousand debates over the rules of spoilers and the pitfalls of binge-viewing), has stormed the WHCD in a full patriotic array of satin.
— Netflix US (@netflix) April 27, 2013
Gorgeous celebrities arriving at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. We have spoken to/pondered the meaning of all of them before:
Thunder-throated Kathleen Turner, in modest black: Dan Zak spent some time with that voice last August.
The voice. Honey. Let me tell you. The voice could smite a filibuster. The voice achieves its own quorum. The voice is in contempt of Congress.
Amy Poehler, in sparkly white with sassy hair, cozying up to John Legend: Former Postie Jen Chaney sat down with Poehler last year to discuss her alter-ego Leslie Knope.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (aka Jaime Lannister): Post television critic Hank Stuever expressed how unworthy viewers are to watch and adore “Game of Thrones.”
Bryce Harper celebrated the first anniversary of his being called to the major leagues on Saturday with a 6-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds. He did not, however, choose to celebrate it by attending his first correspondents’ dinner.
My colleague Adam Kilgore reports:
Harper’s day could have ended with another first. The Washington Times invited Harper to Saturday night’s White House Correspondents Dinner. He declined. “The way we’re playing right now and stuff, I just want to focus on one thing,” he said.” I want to be able to get some rest, things like that.”
As the red carpet stroll for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner kicks off, here’s a refresher on which celebs you might expect to see. Steven Spielberg? Check. Kevin Ware (on crutches)? Check. Babs? Returning at long last — she was one of the first celebrities to turn the WHCD from a doughy journo dinner to a glitzy autograph opportunity, back in 1993.
If you are eagerly counting down the minutes until tonight’s dinner begins (and maybe you are, we’re not here to judge), perhaps you’d enjoy seeing some videos from years past.
Sean Sullivan rounded up five memorable moments earlier this week, a list that included Stephen Colbert’s 2006 appearance:
Jimmy Kimmel hosted last year, and you can see his jokes about the 2012 Republican presidential primaries and other topics here:
Conan O’Brien will perform at the dinner tonight, marking his second appearance as the evening’s entertainment. The last time around was in 1995, when O’Brien was 19 months into his stint as the host of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”
If you are so inclined, you can see that entire dinner here:
The 99th annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner is a few hours away, and The Washington Post will be bringing you live updates from the red carpet, the parties and the event itself. Stay with us for the latest.