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Jun 20

RTCA After-Party Talk: Thumbs Up for Comedian-in-Chief

Move it to a Friday night (for the first time), bring a celebrity bartender to the after-party, and the night is guaranteed to go long. The Radio-TV Correspondents’ dinner festivities didn’t break until several hours after midnight.

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The MSNBC-thrown after-party, attended by Obama advisers David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, among others, had a different vibe than Fox’s fondly remembered 2004 disco affair: more cocktails and comfort-food. Contessa Brewer’s black dress, with its open back, was one of the more daring of the evening and drew admirers; her lengthy conversation with NBC News president Steve Capus had some guessing. The special drinks that Rachel Maddow was mixing up behind the bar — including her “signature cocktail” the Hearst (gin, sweet vermouth and bitters) — must have been potent: The last of the NBC junior staffers trickled out after 3 a.m.

U.S. President Obama attends the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner in Washington.

Obama as Comedian-in-Chief

As for the dinner itself, the reviews are in: President Obama was pretty funny. Then again, it’s hard to know — it could be just another manifestation of that whole being-in-bed-with-the-press phenomenon that he poked fun at in his remarks last night. “Why bother hanging out with celebrities when I can spend time with people who make me one?” Obama said, comparing the RTCA event to the Hollywood celeb-studded White House Correspondents Association dinner in May.

Unlike the WHCD, there was no one line that everyone grabbed on to, but the papers, Twitterers and bloggers found plenty to like, although they appear to be tiring of his frequent jokes about chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s colorful vocabulary. (Last night’s: “In Egypt, we had the opportunity to tour the pyramids. And by now, I’m sure you’ve all seen the pictures of Rahm on that camel. I admit, I was a little nervous about the whole situation. I said at the time, ‘This is a wild animal known to bite, kick and spit. And who knows what the camel could do.’ “) Read more…

Jun 19

RTCA Entertainment Hit and Miss

The night’s tone of gentle ribbing was set early, before the President’s speech, with JibJab’s much-awaited new video, “He’s Barack Obama,” which depicted the President as a superhero capable of knocking out pirates.

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John Hodgman quizzed Obama on nerd factor at RTCA dinner

Author, actor and occasional “Daily Show” contributor John Hodgman’s “nerd v. jock” speech following the president got raves from some, seemed to go over the heads of others, and appeared to have found its most-important mark: President Obama laughed with seemingly real appreciation, as he was quizzed about his apparent love of comic book characters and sci-fi, and egged into giving the Vulcan salute.

Before the speeches, an Onion News Network “special report” poking mild fun at TV anchors who talked too much fell flat on TV, but got laughs in the room, according to some. President Obama watched attentively as Sweet Honey in the Rock performed.

A short video paid tribute to three journalists who passed away in the last year: CNN’s Bill Headline, NBC’s Tim Russert and Tony Snow, the Fox News anchor-turned-White House spokesman.

The Joan Barone Award went to Mike Viqueira, NBC News’ Capitol Hill producer, while the three daughters of David J. Bloom caused some to tear up as they presented the award named in memory of their father to Orla Guerin, the Africa correspondent for the BBC. It was accepted in her name by BBC America’s Rome Hartman.

Jun 19

Is Washington Suffering from Journalist Dinner Overload?

U.S. President Obama attends the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner in Washington.

President Obama at 2009 RTCA Dinner

President Obama in his speech to the RTCA got right to the heart of Washington’s journalist dinner rivalry, saying he was on hand to “Tell jokes that weren’t funny enough for me to use when we did this five weeks ago,” at the White House Correspondents’ dinner (known as the Senior Prom to the RTCA’s Junior Prom.) Then again, he said, twisting the knife deeper: “The jokes may not be as good but neither is the guest list.”

And later: “I think your programming is more relevant than ever before — at least that’s the impression that I get when I read the blogs.”

In his appearance before the Radio and TV correspondents at the Washington D.C. Convention Center, the President was unaccompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama on the orange and yellow rose-rimmed dais and he left at 9:20, before dinner was served. His short stay prompted some last-minute frantic juggling of the entertainment lineup, according to insiders. VP Biden wasn’t there, either, despite apparently erroneous earlier reports that he would attend. A spokeswoman said that he had a scheduling conflict.

Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, right after the speech, noted the President’s “sharp elbowed humor;” a few tweets from the dinner suggested that his humor was “underappreciated” by the audience. He cracked himself up several times, however.

The biggest laughs of the night came when he joked about embattled California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger competing on “I’m a Celebrity….Get Me Out of Here,” then added: “That’s how I feel about tonight.” The dinner, he said, was causing him to miss “date night” with Michelle, and his plans to go for Thai food-pause-“in Bangkok.”

A joke about being in bed with NBC’s Brian Williams, whom he called a terrible house guest, was followed by a list of new TV programs that the success of “Inside the White House” had inspired, the funniest of which was TLC’s “Jon & Kate plus Peter Orszag.”

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Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski

There was also a mild jab at NBC White House Correspondent Chuck Todd for having the style of a TV correspondent and “the facial hair of a radio correspondent.” To MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, he said: “We both have partners named Joe who used to be in Congress and don’t know when to stop talking.” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, he noted, was “the only other man in America with his own situation room,” and it was cooler than the President’s, which he said, was unable “to generate the bandwidth to turn Larry Summers into a hologram.”

Random jokes poked fun at his own Administration, including Richard Holbrooke, whom he alleged sprayed WD-40 that caused Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s elbow-breaking fall. He announced a “new” plan to rescue the auto business, telling dinner guests to look under their seat, a la Oprah, because everyone was getting a car company. Fox, he said, would get AIG.

Looking relieved that his speech was over, the President ended his remarks with a serious tribute to the work of the press, noting “I am here tonight because I appreciate the role you do.” He got the traditional standing ovation at the beginning and end.

Jun 19

Guest Lists Trickling Out: CNN and CBS Hosting Tables

A few more guest lists are now known for tonight’s RTCA dinner

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CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer will attend the RTCA dinner

CBS, which is hosting a pre-party at the Convention Center, will have, among others, RNC Chairman Michael Steele; National Security Council member Samantha Powers; Dag Vega, the White House’s director of broadcast media and Lebanese Ambassador Antoine Chedid.

CNN, which took a full 15 tables, is hosting CIA Director Leon Panetta, U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan; White House Communications Director Anita Dunn and, as it usually does, a number of military folks, including Army Lt. General Francis Kearney.

There will be a full roster of CNN talent there, too, including Wolf Blitzer, Ed Henry, Suzanne Malveaux, Dan Lothian, Joe Johns, Heidi Collins, Brianna Keilar, Gloria Borger, Bill Schneider, Kate Bolduan, Barbara Starr, Chris Lawrence, Lisa Sylvester, Tom Foreman, Jim Acosta, Howard Kurtz and Jeffrey Toobin.

Jun 19

RTCA Dinner Planners Opt for Multi-Entertainer, Social Media Strategy

No one entertainer. Wine policy explained in advance via Twitter feed. Not even the Washington Hilton to complain about. “On June 19, change is coming to Washington press dinners,” the Radio Television Correspondents Association trumpets in a video it posted last month on the dinner’s Facebook fan page and on YouTube.

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Sweet Honey in the Rock to perform at RTCA dinner

Instead of a comedian or impressionist, guests at the Convention Center on Friday night will hear music from Sweet Honey in the Rock, the all-female African-American a cappella group that the RTCA dinner organizers tout as “a favorite of the First Lady.” Humor will come from JibJab.com, which says on its blog that it is “beyond thrilled” that its first satire of the Obama administration will premiere in front of the man himself. (The satirists entertained President George W. Bush with “What We Call the News” at the 2007 dinner, as well.) Onion News Network will have a “special report.”

“For our dinner, entertainment is a plural term, not a singular term,” says Heather Dahl, a producer at Feature Story News and the dinner’s chair.

Despite the smaller table buys from some news organizations in this money-crunched year, what will stay the same, she says, is the attendance: Her preliminary estimates are that the crowd will number in the ballpark of recent dinners, around 2,000 attendees.

International news organizations took more tables, Dahl says, and some journalists whose employers refused to pony up for full tables have paid their own way. “I believe this shows that people really want to go out and have a nice evening, so that’s what we’re going to deliver,” she says.