After a two year COVID activated hiatus, The White House Correspondents Dinner made its return on Saturday night. Headlined by comedian and “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah, the evening had its handful of laughable, and intentionally uncomfortable moments, with most jokes aimed at president Joe Biden, as per tradition. The annual event began in 1921 to honor print and broadcast journalists, and raise scholarship funds for collegiate journalism students. Since the eighties, the dinner has come to be known somewhat as a “nerd prom” with a red carpet studded with political stars and a scattering of celebrities.
Among those in attendance were Don Lemon, Kyla Pratt, Martha Stewart, and making their red carpet debut, “Kete”, the couple formerly known individually as Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson. The two arrived perfectly unmatched with Kardashian in Balenciaga Couture, while her beau donned black sunglasses and Vans. Other celeb sightings included CBS News host, Gayle King. During her presentation, King spoke of how she and Drew Barrymore were asked to make space on the red carpet, being told to “move, move!” as Kardashian and the SNL star approached. Fat Joe was also seen rubbing shoulders with political pundits throughout the evening. Was COVID in the building, Joe? Because masks were surely not.
While the event did attract some criticism for returning despite the ongoing pandemic, all guests were required to be fully vaxxed and boosted. And after two years of being burdened by the gloom of infectious disease, COVID made its way into Biden’s bit, earning him a few laughs from the crowd.
“We had a horrible plague followed by two years of COVID,” he joked in reference to Donald Trump’s time in office. “Just imagine if my predecessor came to this dinner this year. Now that would really have been a real coup.” You could hear attendees collectively groan and let out suppressed snickers.
As Trevor Noah took the stage, the pandemic jokes continued as he opened by stating that it was his “great honor” to speak at the “nation’s most distinguished superspreader event.” He eventually let into Biden, ragging on his low approval rating.
“I think everyone will agree that it’s actually nice to once again have a president who’s not afraid to come to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and hear jokes about himself,” the comedian began. “I’ll be honest, if you didn’t come, I totally would have understood because these people have been so hard on you, which I don’t get. I really don’t. And I think ever since you’ve come into office, things are really looking up. You know, gas is up, rent is up, food is up, everything.”
He also jokingly expressed his own worry in attending and making jokes, referring to the now infamous Oscars incident.
“I’ve actually been a bit worried about tonight,” Noah said. “I’m not going to lie. What if I make a really mean joke about Kellyanne Conway, and her husband rushes up on the stage and thanks me?”
In a more serious moment, Noah offered a few inspiring words, speaking on the “blessing” that it is to live in a country as a journalist or media professional and not fear for your life because of an opinion you publicly expressed, or for stating the facts.
“In America, you have the right to seek the truth and speak the truth, even if it makes people in power uncomfortable,” he said. “Even if it makes viewers or readers uncomfortable. You understand how amazing that is?”
The event also honored the contributions of Black women who’ve covered the White House over the years. In addition to Gayle King’s acknowledgement of April Ryan–whose reporting spanning 25 years earned her a standing ovation–two other Black women broadcasters on whose shoulders she stands were honored as well. The producers ran a short documentary style tribute to Alice Dunnigan, the first Black female White House correspondent, and Ethel Payne, known as the First Lady of the Black Press.