The First Yuckster at the White House Correspondents Dinner tonight taunted Jay Leno before The Tonight Show host took the podium. “I am glad that the only person whose ratings fell more than mine is here tonight. Great to see you, Jay. I’m also glad that I’m speaking first — because we’ve all seen what happens when somebody takes the time slot after Leno.” Jay was seen laughing, turning red, and then standing up and saying to the people around him, “Goodnight, everybody.”
Leno quickly tried to return the favor during his 4th stand-up appearance at the dinner. But I can’t point to single joke that killed with the crowd. Instead, Leno’s barbs aimed at Obama were mostly dull like this: “When you were elected, I was a little worried the comedy well had dried up. So thank you for picking Joe Biden. I appreciate that.” And Leno’s voice grew soft when he mentioned that “President Obama loves to socialize — health care, car companies”, or that “he has the most diverse staff at the White House. They represent every ward in Chicago.” As if Jay were embarrassed to get in any real digs at the Prez.
The laughs were few and far between despite Leno using a mutimedia combination of traditional punchlines, sight gags, and video mashups just like he does on The Tonight Show. Leno’s blandness meant he took only gentle aim at both the Democrats and the Republicans. Although this joke got perhaps the night’s biggest laugh: “As you know, a lot of Republicans couldn’t be here tonight because it is $1 drink night at the bondage clubs.” Then Leno gave a shout-out to GOP party chairman Michael Steele, noting, “This has got to be pretty boring entertainment for you, isn’t it? I know what you guys are used to. That was my favorite story: Republicans in a lesbian bondage club. Republicans don’t want lesbians marrying, but they do like to watch them tie the knot.”
And then Jay continued, “Washington is a very scary place. Between Republicans going to bondage clubs, and the SEC looking at porn, I cant wait to get back to Hollywood — somewhere wholesome, where people have values.”
A joke about Obama’s inability to throw a decent baseball pitch elicited audible groans from the audience (or maybe just the NBCU table): The President “had just come from an interview on MSNBC, and he was used to softballs.” When Jay heard the bad reaction, he added, “I’m going to get fired again.” And towards the end of his routine, knowing that his jokes had fallen flat for the most part, Jay complained, “Ooh, this is a tough room.” Like, duh.