Here’s an American political tradition I wish we’d adopt — the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Every year, the US president gives a funny speech to the press corps and gets “roasted” by a comedian in return. Sometimes, the cracks are really near the knuckle (in 2006, Stephen Colbert destroyed George Bush in a turn that is both brilliant and incredibly uncomfortable to watch).
Barack Obama is, predictably, rather good at the whole thing. He also benefited this year from the open goal that was “birtherism”, making several cracks at the expense of Fox News and Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump is here tonight,” said Obama. “And I know that he’s taken some flak lately. But no one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than ‘The Donald’. And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter. Like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”
He went on: “On a recent episode of the The Celebrity Apprentice at the steakhouse, the men’s cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. You, Mr Trump, recognised that the real problem was a lack of leadership. So, ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil Jon or Meatloaf — you fired Gary Busey. These are the kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night. Well handled, Sir. Well-handled.”
Seth Meyers of Saturday Night Live picked up the theme, too, telling the audience: “Donald Trump said recently that he has a great relationship with ‘the blacks’. But unless the Blacks are a family of white people, I think he’s mistaken.”
There was also an amusing pastiche of the King’s Speech for fans of Obama’s gaffe-prone vice-president, Joe Biden — and an exclusive look at Obama’s “birth video”. But the best joke of the night came from Meyers, when he told Obama how much he’d aged since taking office: “Mr President, look at your hair. If your hair gets any whiter, the Tea Party is going to endorse it.”
PS George Bush was also a good sport at the dinner during his presidency (the Colbert year aside). You can see him and a lookalike delivering a speech here; and here there’s Laura Bush complaining about how she’s a “desperate housewife” because he goes to bed so early.