On Saturday evening at the Hilton ballroom in Washington, D.C., from President Obamas opening remarks to the closing comments by comedian Larry Wilmore during the White House Correspondents Dinner, it was a Black thang.
President Obama began his eighth and final WHCD with an apology to the assembled celebrities and journalists. I know I was a little late tonight, he said. I was running on CPT, which stands for jokes that white people should not make.
That proviso set the tone for the evening, a proviso that host Wilmore didnt have to observe as he skewered everybody of note within eyesight and a few beyond the crowded ballroom.
But Obama wasnt through. His CPT was a reminder of Mayor de Blasios recent remark during an annual Inner Circle dinner. He told the audience that if his speech worked out well, Im going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans.
It was a clever summary of the attack Hillary Clinton has been receiving from Sen. Bernie Sanders and the news that Harriet Tubman, the legendary abolitionist, will soon have her image on the $20 bill.
Clinton was given an additional nod when he said, Next year at this time, someone else will be standing here in this very spot and its anyone guess who she will be.
There was praise for his wife, Michelle, who hasnt, he said, aged as much as he has over the last eight years.
Before dropping the mic and taking his seat at the dais, Obama had a few kind words for Wilmore. Let give it up for our host Larry Wilmore. Also known as one of the two Black guys whos not Jon Stewart. Youre the South African guy, right? I love Larry.
Some would question if Obamas love continued after Wilmores critique of his administration, particularly the presidents foreign policy. Couple years ago during this dinner, you were like killing Osama bin Laden. Remember that? Who you killing tonight?
There was a similar remark that may have upset the president when Wilmore compared his military agenda with the Golden State Warriors Steph Curry. But I have to say, its great, it looks like youre really enjoying your last year of the presidency. Saw you hanging out with NBA players like Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors. That was cool. That was cool, yeah. You know it kinda makes sense, too, because both of you like raining down bombs on people from long distances, right? What? Am I wrong?
But Wilmore dropped that line of ridicule and returned to the theme he established upon taking the podium. Well, welcome to Negro Night here at the Washington Hilton, or as Fox News will report, Two thugs disrupt elegant dinner in D.C. Thats how they do us, right?
This took the smirk from Obamas face and left him turning to Michelle in laughter.
Even so, Wilmore resumed his signifying on the president. No, man, you came in here looking like Denzel Washington, he said, and you are going out looking like Grady from Sanford and Son. Obama also busted a time-honored stereotype, Wilmore continued. Blacks do crack.
A parting shot was directed at Obama before Wilmore began his needling of the media. It must have riled the bosses at MSNBC to learn from Wilmore that it stood for Missing a Significant Number of Black Correspondents. He said that Anthony Anderson, the star of Blackish was in the room. Wilmore joked that Blackish was his nickname in high school. That is what they called you, didnt they Mr. President?
Black Lives Matter, O.J. Simpson, Dr. Ben Carson, Morgan Freeman, Bill Cosby, and even the Rev. Al Sharpton were sharply invoked and dismissed. I am surprised Al is a Hillary supporter, he said. You do not put a relaxer in your hair for forty years and not feel the Bern.
Toward the close of his routine, Wilmore had a few final words to say about the president. So I wanna talk about some of the things youre leaving behind and I dont mean the Black Jesus in the Lincoln bedroom, he joshed. Make sure you take all of your culturally specific items with you so you can get your security deposit back, Mr. President. Wilmore offered an impression of the next president moving in: What is cocoa butter?
Wilmores speech has some hilarious moments but on several occasions he may have breached the line of comedy, particularly his commentary on the president.
If so, all was forgiven in the end when he told Obama as he embraced him brotherly: Yo, Barry, you did it, my n-@#$a!