Brow Beat

Here Are the Truest, Meanest Jokes that Bombed at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Daily Show senior correspondent Hasan Minhaj took on the most thankless job in comedy Saturday night, appearing at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association awards dinner. It was especially thankless this year: Donald Trump, famously skewered by President Obama and Seth Meyers in 2011, decided to skip it, and Samantha Bee threw her own competing event the same night. Nevertheless, Minhaj persisted, and you can watch his complete remarks above.

The only way to successfully host an event like the WHCD—as Stephen Colbert and Larry Wilmore demonstrated in their respective outings—is to address the room’s unique concentration of power and obliviousness with the contempt it deserves. Minhaj got the spirit of the thing right, but, operating at a huge disadvantage without the president or the usual nerd-prom celebrities there to roast, didn’t afflict the comfortable as efficiently or hilariously as his fellow Daily Show veterans. Still, he did score a few shocked silences and appalled gasps, which in that room mean a lot more than laughs. So here are some of the jokes that bombed hardest, which is another way of saying they’re most likely to be true:


  • “I would say it is an honor to be here, but that would be an alternative fact—it is not. No one wanted to do this, so of course it lands in the hands of an immigrant.”
  • “Historically, the president usually performs at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but I think I speak for all of us when I say he’s done far too much bombing this month.”
  • “Betsy DeVos couldn’t be here—she’s busy curating her collection of children’s tears.”
  • “Now a lot of people think Steve Bannon is the reason Trump dog-whistles to racists, and that is just not true. Ask Steve Bannon. Is Steve Bannon here? I do not see Steve Bannon. I do not see Steve Bannon. Not see Steve Bannon. Not see … Steve Bannon.”
  • “Even Hillary Clinton couldn’t be here tonight. I mean, she could have been here, but I think someone told her that the event was in Wisconsin and Michigan.”
  • “Sean Spicer’s been doing PR since 1999. He has been doing this job for 18 years. And somehow, after 18 years, his go-to move when you ask him a tough question is denying the holocaust. That is insane—how many people do you know who can turn a press briefing into a full-on Mel Gibson traffic stop?”
  • “It finally happened: Bill O’Reilly has been fired. But then [Fox News] gave him a $25 million severance package, making it the only package he won’t force a woman to touch.”
  • “In O’Reilly’s defense, he was told by a close friend, ‘When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.’ ”
  • “I know some of you are wondering, ‘Hasan, how do you know so much about Fox News?’ Well, as a Muslim, I like to watch Fox News for the same reason I like to play Call of Duty: Sometimes I like to turn my brain off and watch strangers insult my family and heritage.”
  • “MSNBC is here tonight, and I’m glad you guys are here tonight. That way if I’m bombing, Brian Williams will describe it as stunning.”