5th UPDATE – FINAL: (See McHale and Obama videos here and here) If last year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner with headliner Conan O’Brien was white bread bland, tonight’s event was just painful. In way way over his head, Joel McHale stumbled and sputtered through a routine that got more moans and groans from the packed Washington Hilton ballroom than laughs. With failed one-liners about runaway production, Robert De Niro’s career choices, Jessica Simpson’s historical knowledge, the Kardashians’ sex lives, George Clooney’s political affiliations, Bill Clinton’s qualifications as a grandfather and a slew of other poorly conceived and badly executed jokes, the Community star left the stage after 30-minutes to weak applause from the 2,600 guests. At least he made President Obama’s speech and his now standard swipes at cable news look good in comparison. Obama’s sharpest line of the night came courtesy of Netflix when Obama sympathized with House Speaker John Boehner’s problem with his fellow Republicans. “Which means orange really is the new black,” quipped the President with perfect timing. At another pop culture point, Obama made a nod to HBO’s Game Of Thrones. The Commander-in-Chief envoked the merciless acts of the ruler of the fictional Seven Kingdoms when he joked about enacting more executive actions and just doing his job every day as a doctored pic appeared on the video monitors.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 4, 2014
Besides the speeches, the mixed crowd of Hollywood, D.C. and captains of industry were entertained by a video featuring real life Vice-President Joe Biden and HBO’s fictional VP Selina Meyer (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus on a tear around D.C. and the White House kitchen. In addition, there was also an earnest History Channel-produced video about the White House Correspondents Association, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. (For the complete play-by-play, take a look at our live blog below)
— Julia Louis-Dreyfus (@OfficialJLD) May 4, 2014
Related: Hollywood Guests At 2014 WHCD
With no Kevin Spacey, no Stephen Spielberg and no Jeffrey Katzenberg the Hollywood wattage was a little lower than usual but then again Robert De Niro was there and so were at least three Presidents: The real one plus Scandal’s Tony “President Fitzgerald Grant” Goldwyn and House Of Cards’ Michael “President Garrett Walker” Gill. Basically the entire main casts of Scandal and House of Cards where there except for respectively Kerry Washington and Kevin Spacey. Harvey Weinstein was back for another year, while Universal President & COO Ron Meyer was pulled into a cell phone photo with the studio’s Ride Along box office champ Kevin Hart. 12 Years A Slave‘s Lupita Nyong’o got all the cameras turning her way with that polka-dot dress, with Modern Family’s cleavage covered Sofia Vergara not exactly being ignored by photographers either. The Good Wife‘s Julianna Margulies posed with Barbara Walters.
Also showing up: Frozen’s Kristen Bell, Katie Couric, Julie Delpy, Patrick Duffy, David Gregory, Savannah Guthrie, Arianna Huffington, Mindy Kaling, former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing and French Connection director Billy Friedkin, John Leguizamo, Rose McGowen, 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen, Glee’s Matthew Morrison, Joe Morton, Olivia Munn, ET’s Nancy O’Dell, Molly Parker, Freida Pinto, Tonight Show bandleader and Roots drummer Questlove, Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson, Rosario Dawson, Dax Shepard, Jessica Simpson, GMA’s Lara Spencer, AOL’s Tim Armstrong, Morgan Spurlock, George Stephanopoulos, Sir Patrick Stewart, Madeleine Stowe, Oscar winner Tilda Swinton, Lindsey Vonn (sans Mr. Woods) with Will.i.am who is making the rounds in D.C. and set to appear on Meet the Press tomorrow morning. Crossfire co-host Van Jones was one of many CNNers at the dinner too, including headman Jeff Zucker.
— Van Jones (@VanJones68) May 4, 2014
4th UPDATE, 8:55 PM: If you want to know how to die in front of the President of the United States, the D.C. Press Corps and some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, ask Joel McHale The Community star was a total bomb tonight at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
“I’d like to thank the White House Correspondents Association for having me and not being able to book Jimmy Fallon,” McHale said early on as President Obama looked on. “That’s true,’ he added reminding everyone immediately just how much better this train wreck could have been and why he was really there. And it got worse. “Every year the White House doctor checks the President’s colon for polyps and George Clooney’s head,” said McHale near the end of his disastrous nearly 30-minute routine to a round of boos from the back of the ballroom. By the time he got off the stage, the applause was faint at best and that was likely from guests glad the nightmare was over.
“I’m the last person standing between you and your after-parties,” McHale warned the crowd at the beginning and maybe they should have made a run for it then. Praising Obama as being one of the top 50 U.S. Presidents, McHale admitted his dig of “explain that to Jessica Simpson” was “low.” Even more so being that Simpson was a guest tonight. There was a lot of Hollywood in the comic’s would-be gags. For instance, runaway production and the intersection between D.C. and Hollywood got mentioned as McHale flatlined with “you give us tax credits for movie and television production; in return we bring jobs to great cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Vancouver.” Robert De Niro got hit for appearing in too many movies as McHale did his impression of the legendary actor’s agent – “He’ll do it.” Attempts to mock Veep, Duck Dynasty and House of Cards were even more limp.
Like Obama earlier. McHale took a swing at cable news. Unlike Obama, he wasn’t even a little bit funny. MSNBC was called “a confusing place” where “Al Sharpton is their skinny guy.” CNN was said to be “desperately looking for something its been missing for months – its dignity.” What was McHale’s response to the moans from the crowd? An insipid “totally.” A follow up about “firing” Piers Morgan at least got one or two guests clapping. “Their key demographic: the corpses of old people who tuned into Fox News and haven’t been discovered” joke barely raised a giggle.
Jokes about Chris Christie being fat, Obama not closing the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, military actions in Iraq, drunken Secret Services agents, TV spoilers and drone strikes and the Kardashians being Republicans because “they’re always trying to screw black people” went nowhere fast. McHale’s acknowledgment that probably few in the audience had seen his NBC show Community seemed to be a small turn for the better and he got a big hand when he mentioned being on the E! Network. That good will died soon as he offended both Dems of GOPers right afterwards. “To Republicans in attendance, E! is the channel your deeply closeted gay son likes to watch,” he said to a spattering of laughs. “To Democrats, it is the channel your happily openly gay son likes to watch,” he added to less laughs. It got worse with McHale noting Obama’s opponents are wrong to compare him to Hitler and Satan because “you look way older than those guys”
You know, there might be some good out of the McHale disaster tonight. It may be time to really class the thing up and make it actually funny and have Al Franken return as host. Not only does he have the chops as a former SNL cast member and writer but the now junior Senator from Minnesota is a seasoned hand at the WHCD having hosted it in both 1994 and 1996.
Not only did McHale completely misread the room as he slagged the WHCD as once being a total sausagefest” but there was a litany of clunkers that so-called comedian himself referred to as ‘”low” again. “Hillary’s daughter Chelsea is pregnant, which means in 9 months we will officially have a sequel to Bad Grandpa,” he said in what felt like the 10,000th Bill Clinton sex joke to a crowd that knows who the next boss is likely to be. Not really playing to the room pal. “You guys sound like you are on a roller coaster right now, McHale said to the crowd as they groaned to another one of his flopped jokes. That’s right, blame the victims. Besides getting a big laugh for praising D. C. as “the city that started the whole crack-smoking Mayor craze” in a reference to Marion Berry and Toronto’s Rob Ford, there was nothing saving McHale tonight. Not even slamming Ted Nugent worked – and that always works.
At least a dig at CNN’s ratings driven obsession with the missing Malaysian Airlines plane got a giggle. “One hundred years ago, CNN was only searching for the Wright Brothers plane,” McHale said in reference to the 100th anniversary celebration of the WHCA tonight.
3RD UPDATE, 7:50 PM: Let’s face it Fox, you’ll miss me when I’m gone,” said President Obama in his speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner tonight after joking the cable news station was a Koch Brother front “It’ll be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya,” he added to big laughs.
The media took several hits from the Commander-in-Chief tonight. “I‘m not the first people on television between two potted plants,” Obama said to Washington Hilton ballroom about his healthcare plugging appearance on Zach Galiflanakis’ Between Two Ferns earlier this year. The President laughed as a picture of Fox and Friends’ Elisabeth Hasselbeck sitting between her co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade appeared on the video screen.
The lengths we have to go to get CNN coverage these days,” Obama joked about his recent trip to Malaysia and the outlet’s obsession with the missing Malaysian Airlines plane. “I think they are still looking for their table,” he added to a rumble from the well-heeled crowd. MSNBC got hit by POTUS too who said the network “was a little overwhelmed.” He paused for dramatic effect and added, “they’ve never seen an audience this big before.”
In Obama’s wide-ranging and fairly restrained remarks, headliner Joel McHale got a shout out about his self-obsessed Community character and how “this event must be a real change of pace for you.” With references to the “new Oprah Clippers” and saying “They did turn healthcare.gov into one of the year’s biggest movie,” as a pic of Disney’s Frozen logo came up, the Hollywood friendly President touch on a lot of pop culture. However as always, he got serious in the end and talked about the risks and challenges of modern journalism.
Before Obama got up to speak, two Vice-Presidents took a swing at the White House Correspondents Dinner and Michelle Obama’s healthy Let’s Move campaign tonight in a video shown at the DC love-in. “A bunch of politicians trying to explain Washington to Hollywood,” is how real life VPOTUS Joe Biden explained the WHCD to HBO’s VP Selina Meyers. The two Veeps took a stylized spin in Biden’s yellow supercharged sports and raided the WH kitchen as well as hung out with some old allies. “You know the difference between a tattoo and the Koch Brothers,” said Nancy Pelosi in a cameo in an ink parlor. “Both are painful but you can rid of a tattoo.” House Speaker John Boehner made an appearance to, saying he wasn’t going to the WHCD because he had “important things to do.” Biden is actually not at the WHCD though Julia Louis-Dreyfus is.
The double Veep video was preceded by a little shot at how non-journalists have taken over the WHCD. “We welcome all our guests to this dinner. We welcome them all, the stars of fashion or sport or yes, entertainment, “said WHCA President Steve Thomma as past Association presidents took a bow, “But lades and gentlemen, these are the White House Correspondents, these are the people whose name is on the dinner,” he said emphatically. The comments got applause but nothing thundering.
Talking about how the WHCA has changed over the years, an even weirder comment from Thomma was when he said, “Now our White House correspondents are half woman. …This time, for first time, we added a gay newspaper.”
Speaking of the history of the WHCA, there was a 10-minute History Channel-produced video played to the Washington Hilton ballroom tonight as previously announced. With appearances from Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as well as Fox News host and former White House press secretary Dana Perlino, headliner Joel McHale and clips galore, the video to celebrate the White House Correspondents Association’s 100th birthday was unsurprisingly pretty self congratulatory. Even though he never joined the WHCA, the video made a point of talking about Harry McAlpin, the first African-American to attend a Presidential presser. Tonight the WHCD is giving out the first Harry McAlpin scholarship. A political science minor at Howard University, Glynn Hill was given the first McAlpin scholarship for $7,000. Hill got a hug from the First Lady and a rousing pat on the back from the President.
2nd UPDATE, 5;27 PM: President Obama and FLOTUS Michelle Obama have taken the stage at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Headliner Joel McHale is up there too, looking a bit nervous while chatting with the First Lady. Soon it’s the actual dinner part of the dinner as well as some words from WHCA president Steve Thomma, scholarship presentations and other Association business – AKA not the fun stuff.
Right now they are playing The WHCA March. It’s not quite Hail To The Chief but it proves everyone in D.C. gets a march eventually. “It’s very hot and very crowded as usual,” I hear from inside the Washington Ballroom. Guess that’s why Duck Dynasty‘s Willie Robertson has taken his coat off. The reality star seems to be having quite the chat with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz – birds of a feather? The Obamas arrived around 4:15 PM according to the White House pool report. Earlier during the C-Span Crowd Noise portion of the festivities we saw NCIS’s David McCallum and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer among the crowd. McHale entered the room and appeared to be taking photos of the seating cards on the dais — presumably Obama’s, or maybe his own? Now everyone’s digging in for the grub (which includes beef and crab cakes entrees), see you in about an hour. In the meantime, here’s a little something from the ballroom via returning guest and House of Cards‘ showrunner Beau Willimon, with the cast’s Robin Wright and Michael Kelly.
— Beau Willimon (@BeauWillimon) May 4, 2014
1st UPDATE, 4:08 PM: An Oscar winner has arrived at the White House Correspondents Dinner, a recent Oscar winner that is. 12 Years A Slave‘s Lupita Nyong’o got all the cameras turning her way with that polka-dot dress. Here comes Katie Couric too, working the media rope line like mad. The cast of HBO’s Veep showed up but appeared to be Julia Louis-Dreyfus-less. Then the fictional VP Selina Meyer walked in about 10 minutes later, to make her own entrance as one of the 2,600 guest expected tonight.
The Veep cast had hung out part of the day at the real White House, as Tony Hale tweeted earlier today.
— Tony Hale (@MrTonyHale) May 3, 2014
Barbara Walters, basking in her great V. Stiviano get on TV last night, gave interviews back to back with Today show gang — Savannah Guthrie in Pepto Bismol pink to Bab’s lavender. Docu filmmaker and CNN host Morgan Spurlock walked in, as did Scandal and Man of Steel’s Joe Morton, Patrick Duffy, star of Dallas V.1 and V.2 also is there. A political wife of a sort, The Good Wife‘s Julianna Margulies poses with her arm around Barbara Walters. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) showed up with his daughter, Meghan who has a show on PIVOT that you’ve probably never seen. There looked to be an awkward moment of MSNBC’s Al Sharpton trying to get past the McCains without speaking to them but the two ended up doing a photo together after all.
One of Tinseltown’s true class acts, former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing and husband French Connection director Billy Friedkin are there. So is another couple, Frozen’s Kristen Bell, in a great dress, and hubby and Parenthood star Dax Sherpard. Jimmy Fallon isn’t there but The Tonight Show bandleader and Roots drummer Questlove is. She didn’t get to play Hillary Clinton in a miniseries after all but Diane Lane is at the WHCD today. House of Cards’ Michael Kelly is there too – in fact, it seems everyone from the Netflix series is there but star Kevin Spacey. Good Morning America co-host former Clinton aide and the future of all things ABC New George Stephanopoulos is there as is GMA’s Lara Spencer. Harvey Weinstein is back for another year. DreamWorks PR chief Chip Sullivan is attending as a guest of TIME mag. Alpha House’s Cynthia Nixon, John Leguizamo,Rose McGowen, Taylor Schilling, New Girl’s Zooey Deschanel, ET’s Nancy O’Dell, who was doing a ton of interviews on her way in, Jessica Simpson, Julie Delpy, Freida Pinto, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, Mindy Kaling and Lindsey Vonn (but no Mr. Woods) are also among the invited guests.
Will.i.am is in the hall — he is making the rounds in D.C. and set to appear on Meet the Press tomorrow morning. Speaking of the Sunday morning show – embattled Meet the Press host David Gregory showed up but walked straight past photogs and press. There’s Jeffrey Tambor chatting with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont). More Scandal cast now showing up, here’s a very pleased looking Guillermo Diaz and then Jeff Perry. Ride Along‘s Kevin Hart spent sometime with NBCU’s Ron Meyer as he tweeted:
Me & Ron Meyer….this guy is a inspiration, his journey to get where he is today is unbelievable!!! I … http://t.co/hb8Qm1tFRT
— Kevin Hart (@KevinHart4real) May 3, 2014
You know for people who dump on the WHCD for all the celebs, just remember Frank Sinatra co-hosted back in 1945. There’s legacy – no wonder struggling MSNBC host Ronan Farrow showed up this year.
Having said that, C-SPAN did cut away from arrivals for awful pre-taped blah, blah blah from McHale. If it’s a precursor to his patter during tonight’s clambake, is going to be really painful.
At least Olivia Munn is feeling great about the night as this tweet reveals:
— oliviamunn (@oliviamunn) May 3, 2014
PREVIOUS, 3:14 PM: You got to hope after a 100 years they’ll get it really right at tonight’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington D.C. Though anything that is openly called NerdProm and stuffs the ballroom of the Washington Hilton full of partying journalists, TV stars like The Newsroom‘s Olivia Munn and Revenge‘s Madeline Stowe, Robert De Niro, cabinet secretaries, leaders of industry and President Obama could easily go off the rails. No slacker, Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty was one of the first arrivals already for the second year in a row. This year the jokemiester is Joel McHale of NBC’s Community and E!’s The Soup. The question is will he be funny or just hack it out? The other question is did the Tosh 2.0 guy turn down the gig? You have to wonder after softballing from Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel the last two years, why the White House Correspondents’ Association could land a real stand-up kingpin like Chris Rock? Or bring back 2011′s Seth Meyers or why they didn’t give Jay Leno his first real platform since exiting The Tonight Show? Let off the leash, Leno was biting when it came to politics and politicians.
— Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers) May 3, 2014
— Joel McHale (@joelmchale) May 3, 2014
The arrivals at the Washington Hilton have already started with Fox News Channel‘s Greta Van Susteren walking in just in front of FNC guest Sir Patrick Stewart of the upcoming X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Arianna Huffington, Glee‘s Matthew Morrison and, after getting called out by Kimmel in 2012, a cleavage covered Sofia Vergara from Modern Family getting there early. Little bit of air kissing between the FNC host and the Duck Dynasty star we see. There’s NBCU’s Ron Meyer whipping by the rope line. The Obamas are expected to head over for around 3:30 PM LA time.
With no Kevin Spacey, no Stephen Spielberg and no Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Hollywood wattage is a little lower than usual but then again there will be at least three POTUS in the room. The real one plus Scandal’s Tony “President Fitzgerald Grant” Goldwyn and House Of Cards’ Michael “President Garrett Walker” Gill.
The show will really kick off around 7:15 PM when the speeches start. First up among the marquee acts will be the real-life President and then The Soup host will head to the podium to deliver his routine. As usual, there’ll be the digs at the partisan people in the room and the President’s poll ratings that everyone does – though few as well as Stephen Colbert did to uncomfortable almost silence back in 2006. Otherwise, don’t be surprised at the Hillary 2016 one-liners, the Biden 2016 no-hopers, slaps at Russian President Vladimir Putin and potential GOP 2016 candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his Bridgegate scandal. Hell maybe even admonished LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Whether the jokes will funny, well, that’s something to be seen but if past years are anything to go by, don’t expect anyone to land a TKO.
At least one wrong will be correct as the WHCA hands put the first Harry McAlpin scholarship to honor the first African-American journalist to attend a Presidential press conference. A reporter for the National Negro Press Association and the Atlanta Daily World, McAlpin was never invited to join the WHCA but he did break another color barrier by participating in a presser with a welcoming FDR back in 1944. Also tonight, a special video from the History Channel will be shown commemorating the centennial celebration of the organization as well as its annual dinner.
We’ll update throughout the night, but for now – get your NerdProm tux on!
Deadline's Dominic Patten - tip him here.