It’s something of an odd tradition. For about 20 minutes or so each year, the president watches on as one of the nation's top comedians takes playful, but sometimes pretty harsh jabs. As President Barack Obama prepares for his eighth and final White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, we can probably expect some good jokes about Donald Trump and the president's Republican opponents — but he's also likely to be roasted himself in the process.
Comedy Central comedian Larry Wilmore will take the stage after Obama delivers his own comical remarks Saturday evening. In advance, we’ve collected some of the best quotes and harshest roasts from the White House Correspondents’ Dinners since Obama took office in 2009.
Cecily Strong went for a pretty harsh roast last year, particularly against the media:
1. Strong described the Secret Service as “the only law enforcement organization in the country that will get in trouble if a black man gets shot.”
2. “Fox News is losing some viewers lately, and may they rest in peace.”
3. “BuzzFeed is here, but I could show you a listicle of 17 reasons why they shouldn’t be. USA Today is here, but that’s only because they were slipped under the door. It’s called ‘USA Today,’ so long as today isn’t Saturday or Sunday.”
4. Speaking to Obama, she said, “Your hair is so white now, it can talk back to police.”
Joel McHale spoke in 2014. Some said it was hilarious, others awful. Either way, there's no doubting he took some strong jabs:
6. “Jeb Bush might announce that he’s running. Wow, another Bush in the White House. Is it already time for our every-10-years surprise for Iraq?”
7. “I promise tonight will be both amusing and over quickly, just like Christie’s presidential bid.”
8. “At this point, CNN is like the RadioShack at a sad strip mall. You don’t know how it stayed in business this long, you don’t know anyone that shops there, and they just fired Piers Morgan.”
9. “C-SPAN is like one of those ‘Paranormal Activity’ movies. It’s just grainy shots of empty rooms interrupted with images of people you’re pretty sure died a few years ago.”
10. “How about the president’s performance tonight, everyone? It’s amazing that you can still bring it with fresh, hilarious material. My favorite bit of yours was when you said you’d close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.”
In 2013, it was Conan O'Brien's turn. Many said Obama's performance received louder laughter, but he still got in some good jokes:
11. "It's an honor to share this stage with the president. When you think about, it the president and I are a lot alike. We both went to Harvard. We both have two children and we both told Joe Biden we didn't have extra tickets for tonight's event."
12. "If any of you are live-tweeting this event, please use the hashtag '#incapableoflivinginthemoment.' Yes, also to any U.S. senators here tonight, if you would like to switch either your dessert or your position on gay marriage, please signal a waiter."
Jimmy Kimmel's 2012 performance received pretty steady laughter:
13. To Obama: "I know you won't be able to laugh at my jokes about the Secret Service. Please cover your ears, if that's physically possible."
14. "If you told me when I was a kid I would be standing on a dais with President Barack Obama, I would have said, 'The president's name is Barack Obama?'"
15. "Did Rupert Murdoch hack into all my jokes already?"
16. "You'd recognize Jay Carney as the white guy from the LensCrafters commercial."
Seth Meyers' performance in 2011 included a roast of Donald Trump, who was then considering a White House bid:
17. "Donald Trump has been saying that he will run for president as a Republican, which is surprising because I just assumed he was running as a joke."
18. "I am also honored to be performing for those of you here tonight, as well as the handful of people watching at home on CSPAN. CSPAN is of course the official network for wide-shots of empty chairs. Every time I tune into CSPAN it looks like they just had a fire drill."
19. "Let's start with Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney wrote a book titled 'No Apologies.' No apologies? When you have to proclaim 'no apologies' isn't that a tacit admission you've made a lot of mistakes? If I come home from a trip to Vegas and the first thing I say to my girlfriend is 'no apologies,' we're going to have a follow-up conversation.
Jay Leno's roast in 2010 received pretty bad reviews; some said the president outperformed him.
20. "Michelle Obama has made childhood obesity one of her problems; yes, she has started a more intense program, its called, 'leave no child with a bigger behind'."
21. "As you know, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that the Pentagon will ease up on its enforcement of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy; they said that homosexual behavior will still be against the rules, but nobody will be actively enforcing it, kind of like the ethics regulations in congress."
Wanda Sykes' 2009 performance went pretty harsh against some right-wingers, like Rush Limbaugh. Some said she went too far.
22. "You're proud to be able to say that — 'the first black president' — that is, unless you screw up. Then it's going to be, what's up with the half white guy?"
23. "Boy, Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails — so you said you hope America fails... To me, that's treason. He's not saying anything differently than what Osama bin Laden is saying. You know, you might want to look into this, sir, 'cause I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker, but he was just so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight."