The annual “nerd prom,” otherwise known as the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (WHCD), was Saturday night. If we are lucky, it will be the last one. The entire event is inappropriate, and it has nothing to do with comedians being rude to the people in the audience or on the dais. After all, they are hired to do that. The whole tired ritual is based on the old tradition of the comedy “roast,” where people get up and insult the guest of honor, which in the case of the correspondents’ dinner, is the president and the DC establishment, including the press.
No, the event is inappropriate because it’s an obnoxious suck-up to power, no matter who the president is or how edgy the comedian. The press and the politicians lining up on red carpets with Hollywood celebrities and yukking it up together, as if politics and government were just one big performance and this was their awards show, has always been an excellent illustration of everything that’s wrong with our civic life. But in the age of Trump it’s become downright decadent and disturbing.
This year’s dinner seems to have hit quite a nerve. Comedian Michelle Wolf’s comedy stylings were not appreciated by the press corps or the administration. She called the president and the White House staff liars, which is true, and pointed out that the media benefits from this surreal circus, which is also true. This bound both together in a way that clearly made everyone extremely uncomfortable, as it was meant to.
So now we have much clutching of pearls and rending of garments among members of the press, demanding apologies from Wolf for allegedly insulting Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ looks (which Wolf did not do) and for comparing her to Aunt Lydia in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which is as spot-on as you can get. (As New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum pointed out on Twitter, “her job is *exactly* like Aunt Lydia: she is the frowning female enforcer for a fascist patriarchal society, punishing those who resist her lies.”)