Once a year, we get to be reminded of the moment that took Stephen Colbert from being Jon Stewart’s second fiddle to being a major player in the comedic and political landscape – the 2006 White House Correspondent’s Dinner. For those of us who had been watching the ‘Colbert Report’, we recognized the tone, and even some of the jokes. But it’s one thing to make those jokes on a late night show on basic cable, and another to make those jokes to the face of the President of the United States. We here at the blog were so inspired by the speech that we used one of the phrases, as the basis for our fan site name – “I give people the truth, unfiltered by rational argument – I call it the No Fact Zone”.
Unfortunately for those who have followed, he has set the bar for how the tone of the event should go. Every speaker since has been compared to Colbert’s performance that night. Rich Little was hired in 2007 to be a safe alternative, and proved to be way, way too safe. Wanda Sykes was brought to the dinner at 2009 and was voted to be a bit edgier than they wanted, although nowhere near as edgy as Colbert. And then this year, in 2010, Jay Leno was the guest speaker. Let’s see what the press had to say about Jay’s performance, shall we?
- After last night’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, should Obama host ‘The Tonight Show’? – EW.com
Leno then took the stage and delivered a routine straight off of The Tonight Show, mainly lukewarm, vanilla fare that wasn’t nearly as good as the comedian-in-chief’s, and definitely wasn’t at the same level as Stephen Colbert’s stint a few years ago.
- Jay Leno Bombs at White House Dinner: Take This Comic Please – PoliticsDaily.com
The deconstruction of the headliner’s comic performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner easily degenerates into a discourse on the culture of Washington and the press pack. Stephen Colbert’s memorable skewering of the press and George W. Bush at the 2006 dinner (“He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday”) spawned a week-long, furrow-browed flap over why the assembled reporters seemed so reluctant to laugh.
- Jay Leno BOMBS At White House Correspondents Dinner (VIDEO) – Huffington Post
All in all, the performance was standard Leno. Safe and inoffensive. And there’s nothing wrong with that — but it comes on the heels of Stephen Colbert and Wanda Sykes, comics who ruffled some feathers on their way to memorable speeches. Even Obama came out and took some risks with his material.
- Leno at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: He’s No Obama – Time.com Swamplands blog
Jay Leno was a disappointingly safe choice as host of this year’s White House Correspondents’ dinner. Still, there was some logic to it. At a time of bitter partisan rancor in Washington, the press group clearly felt no urge to risk stirring up more ill will with a real political satirist like Stephen Colbert (who skewered the Bush gang back in ’06) or a loose cannon like Wanda Sykes (who last year labeled Rush Limbaugh “the 20th hijacker” because he’s rooting for Obama to fail).
- Obama and Leno Share a Time Slot – NY Times Caucus blog
The dinner is seen by many as an opportunity for politicians and reporters to put aside daily antagonisms, but that can be awkward as well. After a searing critique of President Bush by Stephen Colbert in 2006, organizers have pursued entertainers with less edge.
- Obama Tops Leno At WHCD – Politico.com (who also wins the award for Best Use Of Double Entendre in a Blog or Mainstream Media Article Title)
Going into Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, the advice for Leno was this: Be funnier than Rich Little, but not as brash as Stephen Colbert. Both comedians were criticized for their past WHCD performances.
Let’s see what all the buzz was all about by rewatching the video of Stephen Colbert’s WHCD speech.