After a break during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2004, Washington D.C.’s annual party featuring politicians, journalists, and celebrities returns Saturday. However, the dynamic of mixing humor with politics has not changed.
The 2022 White House Correspondents Association Dinner will feature entertainment stars arriving at the Capitol to mingle with news personalities. The event will be hosted by Trevor Noah of The Daily Show.
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, joked Friday about President Biden’s humorous speech. She said that she would lower her expectations and tell it isn’t funny. Just kidding. See?”
The WHCA is being offered at a time when the Biden administration faces many challenges. These include rising inflation, concerns about an economic recession and a crisis on the southern border. Low approval ratings, and a difficult path towards maintaining Democratic majorities in Congress.
Biden’s return to the WHCA event marks the first appearance of a sitting president after Donald Trump notably declined to attend. Trump called the gala “boring and so negative” in 2019, and opted to hold a rally.
Harold Holzer, author “The Presidents Vs. America,” said, “Seeing the President of the United States return, and the dinner come back is more than just a pause in pandemic.” The Press told the Associated Press. “We can talk to one another again.
Celebrities are expected to return in 2022, recalling former President Barack Obama’s presidency, when celebrities such as Charlize Theron, George Clooney and Viola Davis attended the gala alongside journalists and politicians. Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson will attend Saturday’s dinner.
Holzer stated, “I believe this relationship — even though it’s just a one-night affair where witticisms and people make fun each other — is a very healthy thing.”
Tevi Troy, a fellow on the Bipartisan Policy Commission and presidential historian, stated that mixing politics and humor is a tradition in Washington.
“Political humor serves a purpose. Troy stated that while it serves a minimal purpose, humor can humanize politicians. But good humor does more.
After a shaming debut speech at 1988 Democratic National Convention, former President Bill Clinton appeared on Johnny Carson’s program. He was able to laugh and saved his presidential ambitions, Troy stated. Carson had never hosted a politician on his show, but Clinton was invited and played the saxophone.
Former President Ronald Reagan made fun of the Soviet Union when he joked about it. It highlighted the American system’s superiority and the weaknesses of its Cold War rival.
The ideal presidential humor must be balanced between humor and political points.
Troy stated, “Good political humor must be self-deprecating and gentle.”
Reagan’s quip about the then-New York Governor is an example of the right balance. Mario Cuomo, Troy said. Mario Cuomo has good and bad news. The good news is that Americans prefer an Italian president. It’s Lee Iacocca,” Reagan stated at the 1986 WHCA dinner.
Obama made a joke about Trump in 2011 that was meant to bring down Trump. Troy laughed.
“Obama’s Trump routine is too harsh. It displayed great comic timing and poor comic judgement. Troy stated that any time the president pursues someone, even a billionaire it is punching down.”
Several comedians at the WHCA dinner during the Trump administration were criticized for being too harsh and mean-spirited. In 2018, Michelle Wolf’s sarcastic jokes caused a lot of criticism. The event was also attended by Ron Chernow, a historian.