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About that White House correspondents dinner

President Obama enjoys himself at the 2013 White House Correspondents Dinner. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama enjoys himself at the 2013 White House Correspondents Dinner. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

I watched last night’s White House correspondents dinner, or at least the part featuring President Obama and Conan O’Brien. Tuned in too late for the rest. My opinion? The president was funny and engaging, and although he probably has a team of writers creating his material, he knows how to deliver it with aplomb. He has great timing and he looks at and connects with his audience.

Then Conan stepped to the mic. He’s a professional comedian with his own TV show and I like him. I expected him to have me rolling on the floor. But he really blew it. He read his entire bit, rarely looking up and speaking much too fast. No timing, no pause for laughs. I got the impression he’d been handed a script and told to read it as fast as he could. (Maybe they were running out of time?) At one point I actually wondered if he was seeing the script for the first time. I don’t know what others have said about the two, but in my humble opinion the president was a hit and Conan should have stayed home.

And speaking of staying home, what’s with the umpteen thousand celebrities in attendance in a room the size of a football field? This dinner used to be and should return to being a cozy little insider event for the press and the White House. Hollywood has no standing here — except, of course, for all the politicians who think they are Hollywood.

18 Comments »

  1. You know, I wondered about all the Hollywood people too PT. Could it be someone’s subtle way of pointing out how Hollywood is now the dominant force driving the media?

    I absolutely agree with your assessment of Obama’s and O’Brien’s performance. Though Conan did get better towards the end, he was still upstaged big-time by the president!

    BTW, Poetes posted some great GIF images from the event! 😀

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hollywood stars bought their way in with big contributions during the election.

      I was probably too busy rolling my eyes and thinking about turning the whole thing off to appreciate that O’Brien finally got better. He was so not himself last night.

  2. I agree with you. Except I’m not a big fan of Conan. POTUS soared, Conan bored. About all the stars and starlets. I think it more about having a hot after party to generate organizational buzz, and wooed potential advertisers.

  3. Conan was absolutely horrid last night. Horrid!! I’m not a big fan of his to begin with, but I expected actually a lot more than that performance. And when he was reading off the card, especially at the beginning – had to have been 30 seconds? A full minute? (which is a lot of time when speaking) before he even glanced up from his cards. I thought he doesn’t do that on his show – he looks at the audience and zings in the punch lines properly (when he has them – again, I’m not a big fan of his). Then I wondered if he’s used to having those script-rolling-screen-thingies out in front of him, so it doesn’t look like he’s actually reading a script since he’s looking up at the audience.

    And then there is Conan’s material. OMG…. it was at least 10 minutes before I actually laughed at something. In fact, I cringed more than I laughed during his whole performance. I can’t recall, but he has some lines that I thought were in pretty bad taste. I think one had to do with Michelle. Hmmm… I’m going to have to punish myself and watch it again.

    On the complete flip-side… Obama. Oh, sure, he has writers. But Conan gave solid proof that the delivery and connecting with the audience is crucial. Could you imagine Bush up there giving that kind of performance?? Hell no!!

    I LOVED his bangs! They’re both such a great sport. But my favorite line was when he said, “I’m not the strapping young Muslim Socialist I used to be.” I couldn’t stop laughing!! Oh, and yeah… I agree with him… I saw the “Obama library should be in the US” joke coming a mile away.

    • I figured Obama might have those transparent teleprompters that he likes to use, but wouldn’t you expect Conan to have used those? He was so obviously reading. Even I could make more eye contact with an audience than he did. I can’t remember any of his jokes now, and I’m not about to go back and watch again.

      One of my favorite Obama jokes was the one about wishing Republicans would start talking more to minorities, starting with him. Something like that. As for the bangs … they looked as bad on him as I think they look on Michelle. I wish she’d lose them.

  4. Loved the post and the interesting comments.

    I suppose it is all about maximising the eyeballs for such events and getting in the celebrities always works. Rather than deriding this trend, we need to ask what needs to be done to shift perspectives and get in the right priorities in the minds of the viewers. What could be the first step?

    Shakti

    • With all the Hollywood types in attendance, it’s only a matter of time before they turn it into an awards show. Give “Politicians and Political Correspondents Awards” (“Pollies”?) to the most incredible, outrageous performances by politicians or White House correspondents. Leave out the Hollywood types, though. They already have they’re own rewards.

  5. Poor Conan. First Jimmy Fallon gets the show he had yanked out from under him and gets to stay in New York, too. Then his hometown of Boston get’s bombed on Marathon Day (we see him around town when he visits each year during the holidays – he still has very strong connections here). No wonder his sense of humor is not so sharp and his delivery is off – I think LA has ruined him. Obama’s writers are on loan from the Daily Show, which I think explains a lot, but his delivery is key and that’s all his. With his Michelle-inspired bangs he looks like Moe from the Three Stooges.

    • Yes! Moe! Thanks. I knew I recognized that look from somewhere other than Michelle. I still like Conan and sympathize mightily. (NBC treated him so shabbily.) He was just really off his game at the dinner. Obama couldn’t go wrong with the Daily Show writers. Didn’t know they were involved. In my book, they’re the best.

    • Once upon a time, if memory serves, this annual event was just an intimate, fun gathering for the White House and White House correspondents. Hence the name. Somewhere along the line, Hollywood got involved, and now it’s a big deal where you’re nobody if you don’t get invited.

"Nothing is more dangerous than ignorance and intolerance armed with power." ~ Voltaire

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