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White House Correspondents Assn.: Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama poke fun at reporters, foes (video)

White House Correspondents Assn. dinner 2009 by Brendan Smialowski

Every year, the White House Correspondents Assn. hires a professional comedian to entertain the crowd at its annual dinner -- a 3,000-person throng of journalists, officials and celebrities who swarm the Washington Hilton in black tie gear in search of news leads, job prospects and, of special interest, gossip. Like Hollywood's Oscar night, the evening showcases the town's essential ambition, complete with red carpet and paparazzi.

For a stand-up comic, accustomed to nightclub scenes and quick studio laughs, it's a tough job. Just ask Jay Leno, making his fifth appearance this year. He told Politico this week that some comedians bomb because they are more political than funny.

“This is not a bully pulpit,” he said. “It’s not power you’re looking for; it’s laughs. And if you’re seeking anything else, then ultimately you fail. If you have any other agenda, other than....

...laughs — whether it’s power, whether it’s showing how smart you are, whether it’s to impress them with your political acumen or how liberal you are or how conservative you are — then it’s not working for you.”

But inevitably, no matter how deft the professional comic, the president is invariably funnier. Of course, presidents have a bevy of comedy writers to call on, as the White House puts out a call for jokes, outsourcing much of the humor. Still, as a public service, the Ticket has gathered some of the funnier presidential bits for your viewing pleasure.

C-SPAN carries the dinner live on Saturday night (to coin a phrase), so you can watch President Obama's 2010 performance (and Leno's too, for that matter) and let us know how you think they did.

Here's Ronald Reagan

Here's Bill Clinton

My vote for funniest, George W. Bush.

Then there was Obama's inaugural appearance last year.

But one of the most memorable moments in WHCA history, my all-time favorite, came in 2005 when then-First Lady Laura Bush stole the crowd -- and the show -- from both the president and the professional comedian. Take a look.


-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: A recent White House Correspondents Assn. dinner. Credit: Brendan Smialowski / WHCA

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I thought Stephen Colbert's was the best


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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