The White House Correspondents dinner is an event that is held every year. Not a lot of people really know the details as it’s mostly thought of as an event to make jokes and blow off steam. However it seems like every year the news media make it out like some comedian’s career is going to end or the poor person is going to be drug out into the street and shot because their jokes weren’t laughed at by everyone in the room and whatever the president thinks is life and death to people all around the world, let alone those in show business.
That always felt wrong to me.
This year’s selected victim it seems was Michelle Wolf. After her turn as host to the event, the word that she offended the President and a whole bunch of people and that her career was over because she was “Too risky” and “Went over the line”. She will be fine. The President didn’t hear any of her jokes because the president was not there. He wasn’t there last year either. It is not often a sitting President does not attend the event, but it has happened and no one was killed on stage or sacrificed themselves for it.
But besides the people is the organization itself. The WHCA. The White House Correspondents Association is a group of White House reporters from almost all news organizations. The group has been around since 1914. They have held the Gala since 1921. That is a lot of presidents and a lot of hosts. It wouldn’t still be held if they were massacring comedians for telling jokes some people didn’t agree with.
It’s not perfect though. Back in the old days, the gala was only attended by men as women members were not allowed. Not a policy that would fly nowadays (for good reason). The story goes that a policy allowing women was made in 1962 when the long-running member of the WHCA, Helen Thomas contacted then President Kennedy. He said he would refuse to attend unless the women members of the WHCA were allowed to attend.
The rules were changed and the world kept on spinning. It is not the end of the world if the sitting President can not attend the event. Honestly not a lot of people outside the press or political groups really give a damn.
The lists of hosts over the years is also something to look at. These weren’t nobodies that were pulled off the street or people that no one had ever heard of. NBC Tonight Show Host Jay Leno has hosted Four times while other talk show hosts like Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Myers, Milton Berle, and Merv Griffin have also hosted at various times over the years. Bob Hope has hosted as well many times over. Not exactly a list of nobodies is it?
And often what goes on at the event really is just for those attending. Bits of it would appear on the news for some, but the event itself wasn’t televised until 1993. By C-SPAN of all networks.
And although they attend almost every year, some sitting presidents of the past have joined in on the fun while some even joining in on the comedy. Those of us who remember will picture Bill Clinton in his waning days as President poking fun at himself at the dinner with a video that got a lot of laughs that night. Back in the mid-70s, Gerald Ford himself got into it as he mocked not only himself but Chevy Chase, who was the Saturday Night Live cast member at the time known for his mocking of Ford.
So while Michelle Wolf got attention from people over the humor and the sitting President not attending, it is hardly Earth-shattering on any front. These things hardly matter to people outside of Washington and just a way for a super serious end of broadcasting to goof off and have some fun, even if the most important person in the country is not in the room.
So don’t think Michelle Wolf or anyone else is getting the ax over what may or may not have happened that night. If you find it funny, track down what happened. If you don’t. then move on. Everyone will be there at the end and the WHCA’s Dinner event each April isn’t going to hurt you.