Kimmel: WHCA dinner tougher than upfronts

Comedian sez President Obama told him he was 'very funny'

Performing at the White House Correspondents Assn. dinner is one of the hardest gigs in comedy, but Jimmy Kimmel said Monday that he would “definitely do it again.”

“When you get there, you want every joke to be great, so I have a tendency to focus on the negative. But I think overall people really liked it,” Kimmel told Variety.

The D.C. gig was something of a warmup for another tough crowd at ABC’s upfront presentation in Gotham on May 15. Kimmel is known for delivering cutting barbs about the network at the annual advertiser gathering.

“The upfront audience is a much better audience,” he said. “At the White House dinner, half the room is Republican, and half of the room is Democrat, and there’s a bunch of people in the press who are nervous about laughing in the faces of the people they cover.And so I heard from more than one person that they had to contain their laughter a little bit, and that is not the case at the network upfront. We are making fun of ourselves in front of the advertisers.”

At Saturday’s WHCA dinner, Kimmel was surprised that a joke about the size of President Obama’s ears worked well (“It is such a Popsicle-stick type joke”) while noting that one about Rachel Maddow’s book fell flat. “That killed every time I ran it by anybody, but I think the setup was too long,” he said.

Kimmel said that he only briefly talked to Obama afterward, and the president “said he thought it was very funny and he was just kind of laughing. His wife did too.”

One of the most biting quips was directed at the husband of Michele Bachmann and Keith Olbermann, which drew ire from the latter. Talking about Olbermann’s latest exit, from Current TV, Kimmel said, “He has more pinkslips than Marcus Bachmann.”

“I think you haven’t done your job unless you have made people feel uncomfortable a few times throughout the presentation. I think it all just kind of goes with the territory,” Kimmel said.

He wasn’t too worried about his fat jokes about Chris Christie and could actually see the New Jersey governor “laughing really hard” from the dais. “You know what?” Kimmel said. “He is a very funny guy. I had a feeling he would find the jokes funny.”

He and his “Jimmy Kimmel Live” staffers wrote “maybe a thousand jokes” and whittled them down to the very end. One that didn’t make the cut was about Rick Santorum: “First we provide women with contraception. Next thing you know they’ll want equal pay and to use our water fountains.”

“Some people thought that might be a little much,” Kimmel said. “I am always tempted if it is a funny joke, but also, you do have to have some respect. It is a formal event.”