They’re trying to laugh again at the White House Correspondents Association annual dinner.
Long-running “Saturday Night Live” cast member Kenan Thompson will host the event, while comedian Hasan Minhaj will be the featured entertainer for the evening, which has often served as a spotlight on relations between the media and the White House.
Last year, in the wake of scrutiny on the annual gathering often referred to as the “nerd prom,” the WHCA turned toward education, rather than jubilation. Historian Ron Chernow discussed the history of journalism and the First Amendment – a twist for a gala that has often used comedic remarks from Cecily Strong, Seth Meyers and Larry Wilmore to get attention. Michele Wolf sparked controversy in 2018 with some jokes that took aim at former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“Kenan and Hasan are two of the most engaged and engaging entertainers in America. I’m thrilled they’ll help us celebrate the role of a free press in our democracy,” said Jonathan Karl, president of the White House Correspondents Association and chief White House correspondent for ABC News. “We’re looking forward to a lively evening honoring the most important political journalism of the past year.” There was no immediate word on whether President Donald Trump, who has broken a tradition of the President of the United States attending the event, would participate this year.
The bookings show the journalism organization again trying to thread the needle between honoring the tenets that are at the center of the profession – holding Washington officials to account – with the desire to gain a wider spotlight for the glitzy gala, which is often covered by outlets like CNN and can drive a cycle’s worth of headlines, depending on what the comedian at the center of the proceedings has to say.
The WHCA has tread this ground in the past. In 2006, Stephen Colbert sparked a controversy by speaking about then-President George W. Bush, all in the manner of the bloviating talk-show host he once portrayed on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report.” “I stand by this man,” Colbert told the audience. ” I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers, and rubble, and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound—with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world. In 2007, impressionist Rich Little was hired for the evening.