White House correspondents' after-dinner jokes: Best zingers from the 'nerd prom'

Saturday night was the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Here are some of the best jokes, plus a menu designed especially for Washington and Hollywood celebrities.

Carolyn Kaster/AP
President Barack Obama talks with Michael Clemente, Executive Vice President of Fox News, at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel Saturday in Washington.

Saturday night’s “nerd prom” – officially known as the White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner – is best known for the celebrities it attracts, a reminder of Henry Kissinger’s quip: "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac."

But it’s also a comedy slam of sorts as the M.C. – late-night TV host Conan O’Brien this year – and other notables trade quips and barbs over dessert.

(In case you’re wondering, that was a concoction called “The Galaxy” – rich chocolate truffle mousse layered with chocolate genoise and almond macaroon; ganache truffle center finished in chocolate glaze, garnished with fresh raspberries It had been preceded by an entrée of Texas-rubbed petite filet with a calvados demi, paired with duo of jump shrimp seasoned with red curry, roasted haricot verts, baby pepper, patty pan squash, and tasso mache choux risotto. We don’t know about you, but Decoder goes absolutely nuts over roasted haricot verts.)

But back to the rhetorical sweets and savories at the dinner. Here are some of the best, according to a variety of sources:

"It's an honor to share this stage with the president," O’Brien said at the start of his set. "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."

O’Brien had plenty of zingers for the media. Among them:

“The print media are here for two very good reasons: food and shelter…. The print media still has a big star in Bob Woodward. Earlier the waiter asked if he wanted regular or decaf. And he said, ‘Stop threatening me’…. TIME will outlive Newsweek the way Juliet outlived Romeo…. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is here. He has the only show where commercials exist just so they can wipe the spittle off the lens.”

And here’s some of what political junkies said were President Obama’s best jokes:

“The media landscape is changing so rapidly you can't keep up with it. I mean I remember when 'buzzfeed' was just something I did in college around 2 a.m."

"Did you know that Sheldon Adelson spent $100 million of his own money on negative ads [in the 2012 presidential campaign]? You've got to really dislike me to spend that kind of money. Sheldon would have been better off offering me $100 million to drop out of the race. I probably wouldn't have taken it, but I would have thought about it. Michelle would have taken it. You think I'm joking."

"One thing [Republicans] all agree on is they need to do a better job reaching out to minorities. Call it self-centered, but I could think of one minority they could start with. Think of me as a trial run. See how it goes."

“I'm taking my charm offensive on the road – a Texas barbeque with Ted Cruz, a Kentucky bluegrass concert with Rand Paul, and a book-burning with Michele Bachmann.”

Scheduled barely two weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing, the dinner had its serious moments too.

Obama said this about press coverage of that tragic event:

“If anyone wonders … whether newspapers are a thing of the past, all you needed to do was to pick up or log on to papers like the Boston Globe,” he said. “When their communities and the wider world needed them most, they were there making sense of events that might at first blush seem beyond our comprehension. And that’s what great journalism is, and that’s what great journalists do.”

The nerd prom wasn’t universally lauded.

TV old-timer Tom Brokaw says it’s too star-studded.

He told Politico: “That dinner, as it has been constituted for the past several years, is saying, ‘We’re Versailles. The rest of you eat cake.’”

Such a sour-puss! We here at Decoder Central would do most anything for a rich chocolate truffle mousse layered with chocolate genoise and almond macaroon.

And what would any gathering of Washington insiders, media hotshots, and Hollywood types be without comment from Sarah Palin, ex-governor, ex- vice presidential candidate, and ex-Fox News commentator?

Here’s the expurgated version of her tweet:

“That #WHCD was pathetic. The rest of America is out there working our [backsides] off while these DC [backside]clowns throw themselves a #nerdprom.”

(Note to editors: Why does spell-checker choke on every other word in the above dinner menu? It wouldn’t have done that on “Freedom Fries.”)

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