Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner (also known as “Nerd Prom” by annoying people) followed the usual trajectory of a president delivering a yuk-filled speech, followed by a headliner who takes care not to be funnier than the Leader of the Free World. In this case, it was President Obama rolling out a familiar set of jabs at the media, his critics, and the loons who still think he was born in Kenya, while also riffing on his post-midterm lack of fucks. Strong, meanwhile, utterly failed to live up to her pre-Nerd Prom promise not to be too mean.
The common thread between the performances were that the material relied more on edgy premises than writing polish. Whatever the flaws in the material, though, both were hampered by an audience that wasn’t receptive in general, and seemed to groan louder the better the jokes were. The lone exception was the surprise appearance by Key & Peele Obama Anger Translator Luther, which pretty much killed.
The killjoy crowd obviously got to Strong, whose delivery became more and more tentative as the routine progressed. These weren’t the best sets ever written, but they deserved better than an audience that seemed like they had made a wrong turn into a road comedy gig on their way to the ballet.
Here are the videos of President Obama’s and Cecily Strong’s routines, followed by the full transcript of President Obama’s remarks:
President Obama at the WHCD
Cecily Strong at the WHCD
President Obama’s remarks, as delivered (via The White House):
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening, everybody. Welcome to the White House Correspondents Dinner—the night when Washington celebrates itself. (Laughter.) Somebody’s got to do it. (Laughter.)
And welcome to the fourth quarter of my presidency. (Laughter and applause.) It’s true—that was Michelle cheering. (Laughter.) The fact is, I feel more loose and relaxed than ever. Those Joe Biden shoulder massages, they’re like magic. (Laughter.) You should try one. Oh, you have. (Laughter.)
I am determined to make the most of every moment I have left. After the midterm elections, my advisors asked me, “Mr. President, do you have a bucket list?” And I said, “Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.’” (Laughter and applause.)
Take executive action on immigration? Bucket. (Laughter.) New climate regulations? Bucket. It’s the right thing to do. (Laughter and applause.)
And my new attitude is paying off. Look at my Cuba policy. The Castro brothers are here tonight. (Laughter and applause.) Welcome to America, amigos! Que pasa? What? It’s the Castros from Texas? (Laughter.) Oh. Hi Joaquin. Hi Julian. (Laughter.)
Anyway, being President is never easy. I still have to fix a broken immigration system, issue veto threats, negotiate with Iran—all while finding time to pray five times a day. (Laughter.) Which is strenuous. (Laughter and applause.)
And it is no wonder that people keep pointing out how the presidency has aged me. I look so old, John Boehner has already invited Netanyahu to speak at my funeral. (Laughter and applause.)
Meanwhile, Michelle hasn’t aged a day. (Applause.) I ask her what her secret is, she just says “fresh fruits and vegetables.” It’s aggravating. (Laughter.)
The fact is, though, at this point, my legacy is finally beginning to take shape. The economy is getting better. Nine in ten Americans now have health coverage. (Applause.) Today, thanks to Obamacare, you no longer have to worry about losing your insurance if you lose your job. You’re welcome, Senate Democrats. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, look, it is true I have not managed to make everybody happy. Six years into my presidency, some people still say I’m arrogant and aloof, condescending. Some people are so dumb. (Laughter.) No wonder I don’t meet with them. (Laughter.)
And that’s not all people say about me. A few weeks ago, Dick Cheney says he thinks I’m the worst President of his lifetime. Which is interesting, because I think Dick Cheney is the worst President of my lifetime. (Laughter and applause.) It’s quite a coincidence.
I mean, everybody has got something to say these days. Mike Huckabee recently said people shouldn’t join our military until a true conservative is elected President. Think about that. It was so outrageous, 47 Ayatollahs wrote us a letter trying to explain to Huckabee how our system works. (Laughter.)
It gets worse. Just this week, Michele Bachmann actually predicted that I would bring about the biblical end of days. (Laughter.) Now that’s a legacy! (Laughter.) That’s big. I mean, Lincoln, Washington—they didn’t do that. (Laughter.)
But I just have to put this stuff aside, I’ve got to stay focused on my job, because for many Americans, this is still a time of deep uncertainty. For example, I have one friend—just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year. And she’s now living out of a van in Iowa. (Laughter and applause.)
Meanwhile, back here in our nation’s capital, we’re always dealing with new challenges. I’m happy to report that the Secret Service, thanks to some excellent reporting by White House correspondents, they’re really focusing on some of the issues that have come up. And they finally figured out a full-proof way to keep people off my lawn. (Laughter.) It works. And it’s not just fence-jumpers. As some of you know, a few months ago, a drone crash-landed out back. That was pretty serious, but don’t worry, we’ve installed a new, state-of-the-art security system. (Laughter.)
You know what, let me set the record straight. I tease Joe sometimes, but he has been at my side for seven years now. I love that man. (Applause.) He’s not just a great Vice President, he is a great friend. We’ve gotten so close, in some places in Indiana, they won’t serve us pizza anymore. (Laughter and applause.)
I want to thank our host for the evening, a Chicago girl, the incredibly talented Cecily Strong. (Applause.) On “Saturday Night Life,” Cecily impersonates CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin. Which is surprising, because usually the only people impersonating journalists on CNN are journalists on CNN. (Laughter.)
ABC is here with some of the stars from their big new comedy, “Black-ish.” (Applause.) It’s a great show, but I have to give ABC fair warning—being “Black-ish” only makes you popular for so long. Trust me. (Laughter.) There’s a shelf life to that thing. (Laughter.)
As always, the reporters here had a lot to cover over the last year. Here on the East Coast, one big story was the brutal winter. The polar vortex caused so many record lows, they renamed it “MSNBC.” (Laughter.)
But of course, let’s face it, there is one issue on every reporter’s mind and that is 2016. Already, we’ve seen some missteps. It turns out Jeb Bush identified himself as “Hispanic” back in 2009. Which you know what, look, I understand. It’s an innocent mistake. Reminds me of when I identified myself as “American” back in 1961. (Laughter and applause.)
Ted Cruz said that denying the existence of climate change made him like Galileo. (Laughter.) Now that’s not really an apt comparison. Galileo believed the Earth revolves around the sun. Ted Cruz believes the Earth revolves around Ted Cruz. (Laughter.) And just as an aside, I want to point out, when a guy who has his face on a “Hope” poster calls you self-centered, you know you’ve got a problem. (Laughter.) The narcissism index is creeping up a little too high. (Laughter.)
Meanwhile, Rick Santorum announced that he would not attend the same-sex wedding of a friend or a loved one. To which gays and lesbians across the country responded, that’s not going to be a problem. (Laughter and applause.) Don’t sweat that one. (Laughter.)
And Donald Trump is here. Still. (Laughter.)
Anyway. (Laughter.) It’s amazing how time flies. Soon, the first presidential contest will take place. And I for one cannot wait to see who the Koch brothers pick.
It’s exciting. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker. Who will finally get that red rose? (Laughter.) The winner gets a billion-dollar war chest. The runner up gets to be the bachelor on the next season of “The Bachelor.” (Laughter.) I mean, seriously, a billion dollars. From just two guys. Is it just me, or does that feel a little excessive? (Laughter.) I mean, it’s almost insulting to the candidates. The Koch brothers think they need to spend a billion dollars to get folks to like one of these people. (Laughter.) It’s got to hurt their feelings a little bit. (Laughter.)
And, look, I know I’ve raised a lot of money too. But in all fairness, my middle name is “Hussein.” (Laughter.) What’s their excuse? (Laughter and applause.)
The trail hasn’t been easy for my fellow Democrats either. As we all know, Hillary’s private emails got her in trouble. Frankly, I thought it was going to be her private Instagram account that was going to cause her bigger problems. (Laughter.)
Hillary kicked things off by going completely unrecognized at a Chipotle. Not to be outdone, Martin O’Malley kicked things off by going completely unrecognized at a Martin O’Malley campaign event. (Laughter.)
And Bernie Sanders might run. I like Bernie. Bernie is an interesting guy. Apparently some folks really want to see a pot-smoking socialist in the White House. (Laughter.) We could get a third Obama term after all. (Laughter and applause.) It could happen.
Anyway, as always, I want to close on a more serious note. I often joke about tensions between me and the press, but honestly, what they say doesn’t bother me. I understand we’ve got an adversarial system. I’m a mellow sort of guy.
And that’s why I invited Luther, my anger translator, to join me here tonight. (Laughter and applause.)
LUTHER: Hold on to your lily-white butts. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: In our fast-changing world, traditions like the White House Correspondents’ Dinner are important.
LUTHER: I mean, really, what is this dinner? (Laughter.) And why am I required to come to it? (Laughter.) Jeb Bush, do you really want to do this? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Because despite our differences, we count on the press to shed light on the most important issues of the day.
LUTHER: And we can count on Fox News to terrify old white people with some nonsense! (Laughter.) “Sharia law is coming to Cleveland. Run for the damn hills!” (Laughter.) Y’all, it’s ridiculous. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: We won’t always see eye to eye.
LUTHER: Oh, and CNN, thank you so much for the wall-to-wall Ebola coverage. For two whole weeks, we were one step away from the Walking Dead. (Laughter.) And then you all got up and just moved on to the next day. That was awesome. Oh, and by the way, just if you haven’t noticed, you don’t have Ebola! (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: But I still deeply appreciate the work that you do.
LUTHER: Ya’ll remember when I had that big, old hole in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and then I plugged it? Remember that? Which “Obama’s Katrina” was that one? Was that 19? Or was it 20? Because I can’t remember. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Protecting our democracy is more important than ever. For example, the Supreme Court ruled that the donor who gave Ted Cruz 6 million dollars was just exercising free speech.
LUTHER: Yeah, that’s the kind of speech like this, “I just wasted six million dollars.” (Laughter and applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: And it’s not just Republicans. Hillary will have to raise huge sums of money, too.
LUTHER: Oh, yes. She’s gonna get that money. She’s gonna get all the money. Khaleesi is coming to Westeros. (Laughter and applause.) So watch out! (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: The nonstop focus on billionaire donors creates real problems for our democracy.
LUTHER: And that’s why we’re running for a third term! (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: No, we’re not.
LUTHER: We’re not?
THE PRESIDENT: No.
LUTHER: Who the hell said that? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: But we do need to stay focused on some big challenges, like climate change.
LUTHER: Hey, listen, ya’ll, if you haven’t noticed, California is bone dry. (Laughter.) It looks like a trailer for the new “Mad Max” movie up in there. (Laughter.) Ya’ll think that Bradley Cooper came here because he wants to talk to Chuck Todd? (Laughter.) He needed a glass of water. Come on! (Laughter and applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: The science is clear. Nine of the ten hottest years ever came in the last decade.
LUTHER: Now, I’m not a scientist, but I do know how to count to 10. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Rising seas, more violent storms.
LUTHER: We’ve got mosquitos. Sweaty people on the train, stinking it up. It’s just nasty. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I mean, look at what’s happening right now. Every serious scientist says we need to act. The Pentagon says it’s a national security risk. Miami floods on a sunny day, and instead of doing anything about it, we’ve got elected officials throwing snowballs in the Senate!
LUTHER: Okay, Mr. President. Okay, I think they’ve got it, bro.
THE PRESIDENT: It is crazy! What about our kids? What kind of stupid, shortsighted, irresponsible bull— (Laughter and applause.)
LUTHER: Wow! Hey! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: What?!
LUTHER: All due respect, sir. You don’t need an anger translator. (Laughter.) You need counseling. (Laughter.) So I’m out of here, man. I ain’t trying to get into all this. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Go. (Applause.)
LUTHER: He crazy. (Laughter and applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Luther, my anger translator, ladies and gentlemen. (Applause.)
Now that I got that off my chest. Investigative journalism; explanatory journalism; journalism that exposes corruption and injustice and gives a voice to the different, the marginalized, the voiceless—that’s power. It’s a privilege. It’s as important to America’s trajectory—to our values, our ideals—than anything that we could do in elected office.
We remember journalists we lost over the past year—journalists like Steven Sotloff and James Foley, murdered for nothing more than trying to shine a light into some of the world’s darkest corners. (Applause.) We remember the journalists unjustly imprisoned around the world, including our own Jason Rezaian. (Applause.) For nine months, Jason has been imprisoned in Tehran for nothing more than writing about the hopes and the fears of the Iranian people, carrying their stories to the readers of the Washington Post in an effort to bridge our common humanity. As was already mentioned, Jason’s brother, Ali, is here tonight and I have told him personally we will not rest until we bring him home to his family, safe and sound. (Applause.)
These journalists and so many others view their work as more than just a profession, but as a public good; an indispensable pillar of our society. So I want to give a toast to them. I raise a glass to them and all of you, with the words of the American foreign correspondent Dorothy Thompson: “It is not the fact of liberty, but the way in which liberty is exercised, that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives.”
Thank you for your devotion to exercising our liberty, and to telling our American story. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)