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White House correspondents' dinner: Conan O'Brien too safe for 'nerd prom'? (+video)

The White House correspondents' dinner is about the hippest thing going, by D.C. standards. The host is always a big deal. So what does Conan O'Brien bring to the table?

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See, that’s funny because in general the executive and legislative branches clash due to different prerogatives and priorities and ... oh, sorry, this isn’t Brookings?

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Anyway, there are some people who think Conan is too safe. Right now, the WHCA is involved in a spat with the White House over not getting access to President Obama’s golf game with Tiger Woods last weekend and limited access in general. By going with a safe choice of entertainment, the group seems, well, toothless. Or at least overly fond of the status quo, according to Alyssa Rosenberg of the liberal ThinkProgress website.

“I’m not saying thinking more creatively and independently about who is going to host the Association’s dinner will come close to fixing all the problems of the White House press corps. But it might help the Association consider who it wants to represent the organization on that dais, what role it thinks it’s members have, and its own capacity to take a joke – and criticism,” Rosenberg writes.

As for us, we’re wondering what Conan is going to get paid. Ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now reportedly asking upwards of $200,000 per speech. Do comedians make that kind of money?

Not according to the Form 990s that the WHCA must file with the IRS. According to its paperwork for 2011, the latest available, that giant dinner grosses about $630,000. Of that, about $250,000 goes to charitable contributions for things such as journalism scholarships. In 2011, the room and food cost $382,000.

Entertainment? Their 2011 line item for that was a measly $10,000. Of course, the headliner that year was Seth Meyers, who is great on Saturday Night Live but not exactly making Jay Leno worry about his job.

Mr. Leno himself was the 2010 speaker. Entertainment that year cost $43,000, according to IRS records. Maybe O’Brien will get that. Or maybe all of the comedians should ring up Mrs. Clinton and ask for the name of her agent.


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