27 April 2015

Mining Nuggets from the Nabobs of the Nerd Prom

The White House Correspondents' Dinner has been an annual event since 1921 when the press corp rubs elbows with the Administration in a social, cocktail fueled supper.  Some serious journalists, like New York Times columnist Frank Rich have refused to go to the dinner as  it "illustrates how easily a propaganda-driven White House can enlist the Washington news media in its shows."

In recent years, the White House Correspondents' Dinner has drawn increased public attention and glamour as  the guest list has grown to be "more Hollywood". The event has evolved from a humble one night affair into a  week long celebration by celebutards, power players and the press.  The WHCD attendees certainly ate well, unlike many DC Dinners of rubber chicken.

Patrick Gavin, a reporter formerly of Politico and the Washington Examiner, produced the film "Nerd Prom" (2015) which documented the pomp and circumstance of the 2014 White House Correspondence Dinner.  The title derives from the face that most of the reporters would not have been the cool kids  in secondary school, so the White House Correspondents' Dinner is a replacement prom.  

As a political animal residing in the District of Calamity (sic), I appreciate opportunities to make light of my favorite contact sport--politics.  But knowing that the press corps is overwhelmingly liberal and  the timidity of inquiries during Presidential press briefings of late, it is unreasonable to expect that the jokes would be evenly divided.  But by mining the nuggets from the nabobs of the Nerd Prom from  Celebrity in Chief President Barack Obama and keynote comedienne Cecily Strong one can discern some interesting insights.

Cecily Strong  was the keynote speaker. While Strong is a Saturday Night Live cast member, she was not a marquis name.  Strong self-deprecatingly quipped that she was the vaguely ethnic woman featured in college recruitment brochures. Strong reveled that she was the first female host of the White House Press big bash in years.  Strong also noted: “I’m also the first straight woman to host this in 20 years, so, we finally made it, straight people.".  Thus the routine was going to be packed with progressive identity politics with an emphasis on female power and gay glory.

It was clear from the material that Strong was not a Washington insider.  She wanted to play up sex scandals in the Capital City, so she segued “It is great to be here at the Washington Hilton… is something a prostitute might say to a congressman.” Then Strong pivoted to the point by musing: “The Washington Hilton you guys. If these walls could talk. They’d probably say ‘clean me.’”  Kind of funny, but when a District of Calamity denizen associates hotels with scandals,  toe sucking at the Hay Adams (by then Clinton adviser Dick Morris) and the Mayflower (where Democrat NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer rented room 941 with his Empire Club call girl) or maybe DC Mayor Marion Berry's drug bust at the Vista.  The Capital Hilton is remembered as the Hotel where President Reagan was shot in 1981. But why let reality get in the way with a funny quip.

Strong played up the progressive press pieties by jabbing that Memories Pizza from Elkhorn Indiana would not be catering because of a rumor that Barney Frank would be attending thus they could not taste that world class Indiana Pizza.  A triple play in a homage to the homosexual lobby, a fly-over country jab and massaging the egos of Nerd Prom.  Of course, the family pizza joint does not cater (but got caught up in a media made mess over RFRA and same sex weddings in INDIANA), Rep. Frank left Congress over two years ago and these media nabobs would never be caught eating pizza in public.  Strong worked in hits on Hobby Lobby being anti-women with opposing contraception (for employees of a faith based corporation), even though that was a Supreme Court decision nearly a year old. 

Some of Strong's ziggers were sharp, but her delivery was weak.  Her stand-up did not pack a strong punch (sic).  It might have hurt that she kept looking down to read her one liners, which accented her exaggerated fake eyelashes.  It seems that she could not get use of TOTUS (Teleprompter of the United States).

Strong seemed more successful when using props and slight physical comedy.  For example, Strong scourged Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL 18th) with a slide show mocking his travels and surfing while implying infidelity. That was less than courageous comedy as Schock announced his resignation six weeks ago over funding improprieties (not sexual harassment) and left town a month ago.    When Strong chose to savage Mr. Obama about being weak on ISIS, she could not utter his name but did an eye roll towards the President. 

Where Strong seemed equal opportunity in her irreverence was towards the media.  Strong zinged CNN over its Ebola obsession, MSNBC for being long winded and showing prison documentaries and lamenting over FoxNews losing viewers ("May they rest in peace") and being like a party scene from Weekend at Bernie's (1989) full of hot women and old guys. Strong did not spare NPR  or the Huffington Post's alliance with AOL.

 Initially, Strong said that she could not say anything about Brian Williams since  she worked for NBC.  But during the Shock and Aw surfing slideshow, Strong said sotto voce "Brian Wiliams, come on--you weren't there.".  The camera panned to a black female reporter who had a priceless look of disgust on her face. 

 It was telling how the room gravitates towards the camera, as Strong joked that print media was serving the tables and there was appreciative laughter.  It was funny when Strong spoke to CSPAN viewers in their native tongue "Meow".

Strong slammed law enforcement by claiming that the Secret Service it was the only law enforcement agency that would get in trouble if a black man was shot was edgy while fueling the police brutality narrative.  Strong's quip that Mr. Obama's hair had gotten so white that it could talk back to the police also reflected the racial divide and the false hands up don't shoot narrative.  

These "jokes" were delivered as there was civil unrest occurring in Baltimore, forty miles to the north. When the Mayor of Baltimore holds Orioles fans in their seats because there are rioters outside of Camden Yards, this ceased to be funny even for black satire. It  just shows how the Amtrak corridor elites are out of touch as well as pushing a progressive narrative.  

Vice President Joe Biden was the butt of several stinging observations.  Strong noted that her Amtrak experience was augmented by a Biden massage seat, alluding to his creepy tendency to manhandle women standing next to him.  Later, Strong quipped that our national treasure Joe Biden could be found in a ball pit at Chucky Cheese.  So much for the boomlet of Biden for President in 2016.

Strong was unabashed in her support for Hillary Clinton's White House run.  It seems that it was important to put a "real woman" in the White House, not a right woman like Carly Fiorina. No surprise from a celebrity waxing politically.  Strong did joke about foreign entities getting more favorable treatment by contributing to the Clinton fund. But Strong tried to be serious by chiding the press not to comment on Hillary's appearance, which garnered modest applause.  But the press has already been told how to cover Hillary and they know that going against these demands will cause them to loose access, get minders following them or be locked in a holding cell during events.

[L] Keegan Michael Keys at "Luther" the Anger Translator & [R] Barack Obama as  the 44th President 

of the United States at the 2015 White House Correspondents' Dinner 

As for President Obama, he always does well at these political-press love fests.  His writing was better than Mr. Obama's misplaced jocularity at the recent reception of Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots at the White House

Some feel the President Obama demeaned the office by the puckish slideshow which included a picture of the President swimming in a White House fountain. However, Mr. Obama already demeaned the prestige of the Presidency by granting an extended interview with an internet phenom whose claim to fame was bathing in a tub of Fruit Loops and milk. So when Mr. Obama opined that his new policy methodology rhymed with "Buck it", it fit right in with the vulgar values of a Daily Show and Reddit audience. 

That being said, Mr. Obama displays an odd sense of humor in public.  One wonders why he continually goes back to birther jokes-- is this a political dog whistle, a psychological perseveration or a healthy sense of humor?  And his comment that he needed as much money as the rumored $1 Billion that the Koch Brothers will contribute to the Presidential campaign in this election as he has a middle name of "Hussein" seems strange and in your face to the American electorate.  Mr. Obama's writers had a clever quip based on Bernie Sanders that: "We could put a pot smoking, socialist back in the White House-- an Obama third term.".  Is that reductio ad absurdum humor or epater le bourgeosie?

Part of President Obama's shtick was assisted through an anger translator played by Keegan Michael Key.  This skit culminated by Mr. Obama feigning losing his cool over racial issues and his "anger translator" holding him back.  This segment had been preceded by allusions to Blackish.  This obsession with race contradicts Mr. Obama's first forays  onto the public scene as a post-racial President.  More alarmingly, playing up internalized anger over racial strife seems to fan the flames of Fergusion which are now burning in Baltimore.  

The Lame Duck President could afford to take some jabs at the Presidential field.  Obama unleashed a few stingers at Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) which shows who liberal elites seem to fear.  While Mr. Obama mocked much of the Republican field, I do not recall any snide snips against Governor Scott Walker (R-WI).  Surprisingly, President Obama gave a towel snap to his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-AR NY).  Mr. Obama joked about a friend living in a van in Iowa, which alluded to Hillary in the "Scooby" Mystery Machine during her brief Iowa listening tour. This reveals the reality that there is not much love lost between the Clinton and the Obama "dynasties". 

All in all, the writing for the 2015 White House Correspondent's dinner was better than most Saturday Night Live political skits.  Unfortunately, Strong's delivery lacked a punch.  Mr. Obama showed his snarky side, which was smooth but not flattering.  Even his attempts at self depricating humor about being self absorbed were not endearing. But at least First Lady Michelle Obama let the crowd enjoy roast before these self important nabobs at the Nerd Prom are condemned to consume cake.  

No wonder some serious journalists refuse to make spectacles of themselves in self congratulatory ceremonies.  The only thing missing from the White House Correspondents' Dinner from entertainment awards shows is an array of lucite trophies beng awarded. It has been said that "Politics is Hollywood for ugly." But Patrick Gavin is right that the White House Correspondents' Dinner is not Hollywood for the ugly, it's a Nerd Prom.  The only trouble with this analogy is that Nerds are capable of making useful contributions (despite their social awkwardness), whereas today's crop of White House Correspondents seem like either stenographers for their Dear Leader or "jo-whore-nalists" for a progressive cause.

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