But seriously, folks...

President Obama and Wanda Sykes get laughs -- and conservative outrage -- at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.


Mike Madden
May 11, 2009 1:25AM (UTC)

Rush Limbaugh had a tough night Saturday.

Both Wanda Sykes and President Obama used the right-wing radio host as a punch line for their jokes at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. The dinner, which Washington's media and political elite appear increasingly convinced is the year's most important event, traditionally features a mostly humorous speech by the president, a few scholarship presentations and a headliner who's either funny -- like Stephen Colbert three years ago -- or not -- like Rich Little the year after that.

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Salon didn't buy a table for this year's dinner, so I made other plans for my Saturday. But both Obama's speech and Sykes's performance are worth a look for anyone who didn't catch them live on C-SPAN.

Obama mostly told jokes about his administration and himself (though he did also mock House Minority Leader John Boehner's unnatural tan). "I would like to welcome you all to the 10-day anniversary of my first 100 days," Obama said. "I am Barack Obama. Most of you covered me. All of you voted for me." Vice President Biden got a couple shots aimed his way, as did chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. "Tomorrow is Mother's Day," Obama said. "Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers in the audience. I do have to say, though, that this is a tough holiday for Rahm Emanuel, because he's not used to saying the word 'day' after 'mother.'"

Limbaugh actually became collateral damage from a joke aimed at Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele. "Michael Steele is in the house tonight. Or as he would say, 'in the heezy,'" Obama said. "What's up? Where is Michael? Michael, for the last time, the Republican Party does not qualify for a bailout. Rush Limbaugh does not count as a troubled asset, I'm sorry."

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Watch Obama here:

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Sykes, meanwhile, went right after the conservative talker at the end of a rambling routine. She riffed on Michelle Obama's bare arms, and on Dick Cheney. But she saved her big zingers for Limbaugh:

Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails. So you're saying, 'I hope America fails', you're, like, 'I don't care about people losing their homes, their jobs, our soldiers in Iraq.' He just wants the country to fail. To me, that's treason. He's not saying anything differently than what Osama bin Laden is saying. You might want to look into this, sir, because I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker but he was just so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight.

Obama laughed, but tried to cover it up with a swallow of wine. "Too much?" she asked. "Rush Limbaugh, 'I hope the country fails,' -- I hope his kidneys fail."

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Some conservatives were already grumbling about the dinner by Sunday morning. "I thought Obama was fairly good for most of his talk, though I have my quibbles," Jonah Goldberg wrote on The Corner at National Review Online. "I thought Wanda Sykes had some funny lines, but was generally pretty bad. Yes, I thought the Limbaugh stuff was particularly awful, not just because it was offensive, but because it was unfunny. Biting humor is fine at events like this, so long as it's humorous. Sykes' schtick was a cliche wrapped in a lefty talking point." Don't be surprised if a backlash builds throughout the week.

In the meantime, you can watch Sykes here:

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Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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