President Trump went to the annual Gridiron Club dinner Saturday night to tell jokes to a room full of reporters, no few of whom he openly despises.
He was following a tradition set by many presidents who attended the dinner before him. But he was also breaking with the tradition of his own presidency, after skipping a similar roast held by the White House Correspondent’s Association last year — not to mention calling the press “enemies of the state.”
Here, we simply want to know: Was the president funny last night? Read on for Trump’s best- and worst-reviewed attempts at humor.
“I wanted to apologize for arriving a little bit late. You know, we were late tonight because Jared could not get through security.”
Background: Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner recently had his White House security clearance downgraded as his background check continues, with concerns reportedly raised that foreign agents could manipulate him via his byzantine business interests.
“Ive seen a couple of Trump’s jokes at the GridIron thing. I have to admit, some of them made me LOL. I particularly liked the Kushner couldn’t get through security one. “ — @XoShanoXo, even though she has a #RESIST tag in her Twitter bio
“I’m sure glad they can all joke & have fun while Americans look at this s—show in abject horror.” — @KimbyIndy, a self-described “ANGRY BLUE SNOWFLAKE”
“Attorney General Sessions is here with us tonight. … I offered him a ride over and he recused himself.”
Background: Trump was talking about Attorney General Jeff Session, whom he reportedly calls “Mr. Magoo” and has criticized for recusing himself from a federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible links to a hostile Russian government.
Reviews: Mostly positive.
“#TriggerALiberalIn4Words #SundayMorning” — @DCjusticeseeker
“[One of] President Trump’s best one-liners.” — David Burke, #MAGA #Conservative
“#Trump wanted to be cool & accepted at #Gridiron tonight. … His speech started out fine, but then trashed #Melania, drilled #Sessions & blasted critics. Sentiment in the room was a #DC mix of fake geniality & pure dread.” — Howard Fineman of NBC News.
“My staff was concerned heading into this dinner that I couldn’t do self-deprecating humor. They were worried about it. They said, ‘Can you do this?’ And I told them not to worry. Nobody does self-deprecating humor better than I do.”
Background: Trump is famously immodest.
Reviews: Overwhelmingly positive.
“ ‘Nobody does self-deprecating better than I do’ is a good joke.” — Politico reporter Annie Karni
“This ‘joke’ is so meta I just fell down a black hole.” — author Steve Silberman
“I like turnover. I like chaos. It really is good. Now the question everyone keeps asking is, ‘Who’s going to be the next to leave? Steve Miller or Melania?’ … That is terrible honey, but you love me, right?”
Background: Trump’s White House is in a near-constant state of chaos. With rare exceptions, such as policy adviser Stephen Miller, much of his inner circle has left. Separately, Trump was recently accused of cheating on his wife Melania several years ago.
Reviews: Mostly negative.
“Trump Jokes Melania Might Leave Him at Gridiron Dinner” — the Daily Beast
“Trump just publicly humiliated Melania in speech” — the Washington Press
“Mike is doing a fantastic job as our vice president. He really is. … But lately what bothers me, I have to tell you, he’s showing a particularly keen interest in the news these days. He starts out each morning asking everybody, ‘Has he been impeached yet?’ ”
Background: Trump’s various scandals have led several Democrats and many critics to call for his impeachment and removal from office, in which case Vice President Pence would likely become president.
Reviews: Very positive.
“Great.” — Slate
“[One of] Trump’s best jokes.” — CNN
“Maxine Waters. How about that one? Maxine Waters, ‘He must be impeached!’ That’s all she knows how to say, ‘He must be impeached!’ Impeached! … But he’s done nothing wrong. Doesn’t matter, they say. What has he done wrong? ‘I don’t know! You got to be impeached!’ … And then I say … I get in trouble for this, ‘She has to immediately take an IQ test.’ And people go crazy.”
Background: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) is one of the aforementioned critics.
Reviews: Overwhelmingly negative.
“Weird.” — Slate
“Trump made an incredibly racist crack about Maxine Waters needing to take an IQ test tonight … An appalling moment.” — MSNBC analyst Matthew Miller, suggesting Trump attacked Waters’s intelligence because she is black
“For a president whose own staff & appointees have referred to him as ignorant, stupid, & whose own Sec. of State Tillerson has not denied calling him a moron, Trump needs to get out of the name calling game.” — Maxine Waters
“I won’t rule out direct talks with Kim Jong Un. I just won’t. As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that’s his problem, not mine.”
Background: Trump has alternated between reaching out to and insulting the leader of North Korea, a rogue state ruled by a temperamental dictator who has threatened the United States with nuclear weapons.
Reviews: Mostly confused.
“Trump also told a bit of a funny joke on North Korea but it was so convoluted people can’t quite decide whether he was announcing a serious policy issue.” — Slate
“And Oprah. Oh … here’s my next one. Oprah, I don’t think she’s ever been hit verbally yet. Right? She’s led a charmed life. She’s done a great job. … She used to love me … She says she’ll run only if she gets the go-ahead from the Almighty. All right, Oprah, go ahead and run.”
Background: Toward the end of his monologue, Trump’s jokes began to resemble naked attacks on his political rivals, such as Oprah Winfrey, who is rumored to be considering a run for president in 2020.
“God Emperor gave Oprah his blessing lmfao.” — nothinglessorover on r/The_Donald, a Trump fan/worship forum on Reddit
“I cannot wait for Mueller to take him and his bottomfeeders down.” — ♥ Sasha C. Airesse ♥ in a less Trump-friendly Twitter thread.
“There’s talk about Joe Biden, Sleepy Joe, getting into the race. You know what he said, ‘I want to take him behind the barn.’ … Just trust me, I would kick his a–.”
Background: Former vice president Joe Biden is also rumored to be considering a 2020 run.
Reviews: No one thought this was even a joke.
“Weird.” — Slate, again.
“How awesome is Donald Trump? Gosh, we got lucky didn’t we?” — Mike, who calls himself “Trumps [sic] biggest supporter.”
So how was Trump’s routine overall? Probably no one considered it the great unifying address of his presidency. But some were impressed that Trump walked into a room full of reporters he has repeatedly denigrated and shunned in the past to poke fun at his critics and himself.
Others were revolted by the entire affair. So basically par for the course in 2018.
“at times we, and he, were funny. we laughed.” — CNBC reporter John Harwood
“A graduate seminar in ritual humiliation. … With cocktails.” — Jay Rosen, journalism professor
“If you’re a journalist and you’re at this cozy no-cameras-allowed Gridiron Dinner reporting on Trump’s ‘jokes,’ you’re part of the problem.” — journalist Mark Harris
“President Trump nailed this dinner, fake news were pushing that he was going to misjudge the occasion, but he poked fun at himself, his aides, and most importantly those fake news clowns.” — thunderbert80 on r/The_Donald
“Trump turns whatever and whoever he touches into crap. The Gridiron Club should cancel these dinners as long as he is in office.” — former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean
“The Gridiron Dinner last night was great fun. I am accomplishing a lot in Washington and have never had a better time doing something, and especially since this is for the American People!” — Trump
Thanks to pool reporter Hunter Walker for transcribing the entire speech.
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