Is Washington ready for Wanda? That’s the question posed by Politico style reporter Patrick Gavin over the weekend and one that underscores the incredibly sensitive nature of selecting the “official entertainment” for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner each year.
When it was announced earlier this year that Sykes would be the headliner for the 2009 dinner, it seemed a non-controversial choice on the surface. While traditionally the actress/comedian has not been a politically active force by Hollywood standards, she was vocally opposed to California’s Proposition 8 and it’s fitting symbolism for President Obama’s first major Washington dinner.
But as the event draws nearer, expect the nerves to grow. There’s a thin line between edgy comedy at these events and that which borders on the offensive — either politically or in terms of taste.
A quick look at the topics Sykes addressed during her 2006 comedy special, “Sick and Tired,” include: “Stripper Therapy,” “My Uterus,” “Animal Love” and “Don’t Give A F#@k.”
A far cry from the material you could expect from Rich Little but also much more blue than that of Stephen Colbert, whose stinging rebuke of President Bush and the national press corps caused more consternation in DC than an Andrew Dice Clay routine would have.
What should we expect from Sykes this year? You can catch some of her performances on YouTube and judge for yourselves but Jennifer Loven, AP White House correspondent and this year’s president of the association did not sound overly concerned with the possibility for trauma in her comments to Politico:
Loven acknowledges that there are risks involved, but she says she thinks Sykes will be “great.”
“I think it’ll be fun to have somebody edgy,” said Loven. “You always run a risk. It’s not our routine. We don’t have — and don’t want — control over the routine. … It’s an issue of trust: trust and cross your fingers that it doesn’t cross the line. We’re not censors. … It’s her job to figure out what’s right for the room.”
Loven said that when Sykes asked her if the routine needed to be clean, she responded, “Well, the president is sitting at the head table, so you do what you think is appropriate.”