Yes, the White House Correspondent’s Dinner is playing it safe this year. But this isn’t the first time they’ve done so. The only time I ever attended was in 1998, when I was treated to the comic stylings of Ray Romano. Arianna was there as well, and wrote at the time:
In recent years, the evening’s entertainment has been provided by the Fourth Estate’s designated presidential satirist of the moment. But this year the organizers chose Ray Romano, the amiable star of the CBS sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” who started his act by admitting that he knows nothing about politics. When they learned that, Romano told the audience, they offered to double his fee. Not bad, but not much of a bridge-building tension release.
One place they are certainly loving Raymond at the moment is the White House. He avoided Clinton and controversy like a hunting dog evading skunks.
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At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, just about the only political reference that Romano could muster was a criticism of Burton’s “cursing.” It was as if the fawning multitude simply wanted to have a good time and be reassured that all is well. But real political satire is supposed to be about rage not delight — about exposing hypocrisies, not endorsing them.
Clinton actually gave the press hell that year, under the guise of some pretty barbed “jokes.” But the designated comedian of the evening stayed as far away from the controversy du jour as was humanly possible.