President Obama’s Top 10 Jokes From the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Angela Bronner Helm
President Barack Obama waves to the audience after speaking at the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner April 30, 2016, at the Washington Hilton hotel in Washington, D.C. To his left are first lady Michelle Obama and host Larry Wilmore.
Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

Hands down, President Barack Obama nailed his final White House Correspondents’ Dinner. POTUS was in tip-top comedic form last night, and his eighth and final “nerd prom” was filled with pointed sarcasm, witty barbs, surprise video vignettes and wistful nostalgia.

6. On Hillary Clinton pandering to younger voters (he actually laughed during this one): “You’ve got to admit it, though: Hillary trying appeal to young voters is a little bit like your relative who just signed up for Facebook: ‘Dear America, did you get my poke? Is it appearing on your wall? I’m not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hillary.’”


As per usual, politicians and journalists bore the brunt of most jokes, but this time, the press got a lecture from the president about their duty (“In such a climate, it’s not enough just to give people a megaphone. And that’s why your power and your responsibility to dig and to question and to counter distortions and untruths is more important than even ever.”). The media was also skewered by host Larry Wilmore, who was unsparing in his attacks on a sometimes tone-deaf and still-in-2016-not-diverse-enough Fourth Estate.

Reactions to Wilmore were mixed—his brutal daggers rubbed some the wrong way, and many in the media didn’t seem to appreciate jokes at its expense (see Don Lemon giving him the finger). But even after saying that Andrew Jackson would have called Ben Carson a “jigaboo,” joking that MSNBC stands for “missing a significant number of black correspondents” and stating that Hillary Clinton calls rapper Killa Mike “Superpredator Mike,” Wilmore’s most controversial moment was probably his last words, when, after a very heartfelt statement on the historical significance of the Obama presidency, he said, “Yo, Barry, you did it, my n—ga!” And dapped the president up.

Love it or hate it, you can’t say that Wilmore doesn’t have a pair.

At the close of the president’s remarks, he finished with two words—“Obama out”—and dropped his mic.


Herewith, our beloved president’s top 10 jokes of the night:

10. On being “black enough”: “While in England, I did have lunch with Her Majesty the Queen, took in a performance of Shakespeare, hit the links with David Cameron. Just in case anyone was debating whether I am black enough, I think that settles the debate.”


9. On Michelle being ret-to-go: “You might have heard that someone jumped the White House fence last week, but I have to give the Secret Service credit. They found Michelle and brought her back. She’s safe back at home now. It’s only nine more months, baby. Settle down.”

8. On the press and Donald Trump: “I don’t want to spend too much time on the Donald. Following your lead, I want to show some restraint … ha. I hope you all are proud of yourselves. The guy wanted to give his hotel business a boost, and now we are praying that Cleveland makes it through July. Mmm hmmmm.”


7. On the GOP today: “GOP Chairman Reince Priebus is here as well. Glad to see that you feel you have earned a night off. Congratulations on all your success, the Republican Party, the nomination process. It’s all going great. Keep it up.”

5. On Republican choices—steak or fish. “Just look at the confusion over the invitations to tonight’s dinner. Guests were asked to check whether they wanted steak or fish. But instead, a whole bunch of you wrote in ‘Paul Ryan.’ That’s not an option, people. Steak or fish. You may not like steak or fish, but that’s your choice.”


4. On Trump’s foreign policy experience: “They say Donald lacks the foreign policy experience to be president. But in fairness, he has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world: Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan.”

3. On, uh, his approval ratings: “And yet somehow, despite the churn, in my final year my approval ratings keep going up. The last time I was this high, I was trying to decide on my major.”


2. On CPT and white folks: “I do apologize. I know I was a little late tonight. I was running on CPT, which stands for jokes that white people should not make. That’s a tip for you, Jeff.”

1. On the Tubmans, baby: “Anyway, here we are, my eighth and final appearance at this unique event. And I am excited. If this material works well, I’m going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans. That’s right.”


Angela Bronner Helm is a writer, editor and professor of journalism at the City College of New York. Follow her on Twitter.

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