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…]

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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The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Celebrates 10 Years

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.

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.

Guest Lists Trickling Out: CNN and CBS Hosting Tables

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

CNN, LA Times, POLITICO Democratic Debate

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.

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.

Junior Prom or Memorable Moment: The Radio Television Correspondents Association Dinner

Just because some in the Washington press corps refer to it as “Junior Prom” doesn’t mean the Radio & Television Correspondents Association Dinner hasn’t had its share of memorable moments.

Washington Honors Media At Radio And Television Correspondents Dinner

President George Bush at 2008 RTCA Dinner

In 2008, even its entertainer/host Mo Rocca dissed the RTCA dinner, calling it the Nicky (Hilton) to the White House Correspondent Dinner’s Paris. And indeed the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (aka “Senior Prom”) in recent years has bigger celebrities (the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Pamela Anderson, Ben Affleck and Mariska Hargitay), more of them and more-buzzed about pre- and post-parties.  Check out some of the pics from last year here.

The RTCA dinner is now in its 65th year. It’s Hollywood quotient in the last decade was mostly limited to activist actors Ron Silver and Al Franken and hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, although Jon Voight and Fran Drescher also put in appearances. But it has a recent history of making headlines from the stage; highlights (lowlights?) include entertainer Don Imus’ raunchy jokes about President Bill Clinton’s personal life in 1996, a major PR gaffe by President George W. Bush in 2004, and, in 2007, a bizarre rappin’ “MC [Karl] Rove.” And unlike the Gridiron Club’s annual dinner, the RTCA’s, which in recent years has been held at the Washington Hilton, is open to TV cameras.

Once upon a time, the tables were switched: Radio and television correspondents worked for richer news organizations and were better paid than their print colleagues and many were glamorous stars in their own right, giving their dinner the higher profile of the two. In 1987, however, the Baltimore Sun’s Michael Kelly started inviting the likes of Fawn Hall and Donna Rice to the White House Correspondents’ dinner and the competition was on.

The Washington Post’s Kim Masters called Mr. Imus’ appearance in 1996 “a roast that turned into an inferno.” The radio shock jock, as President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton sat just feet away, joked that: “When Cal Ripkin broke Lou Gherig’s consecutive game record, the president was at Camden Yards doin’ play by play in the radio with John Miller. Bobby Bonilla hit a double, we all heard the President in his obvious excitement holler ‘Go Baby!’ I remember commenting at the time, I bet that’s not the first time he’s said that. Remember the Astroturf in the pickup?”

He also poked fun at ABC News’ Peter Jennings (who wasn’t there) and CBS News’ Dan Rather (who was.)

Don Imus Appears On Al Sharpton Radio Show

Don Imus

[Read more…]

Rachel Maddow to Bartend at MSNBC's After-Party

2009 Winter TCA Tour - Day 9

Maddow to Bartend at MSNBC After-Party

Fox News set the bar for RTCA after-parties with its disco extravaganza in 2004, and this year, MSNBC will try to top it with Rachel Maddow, who will be mixing cocktails behind the bar. If that’s not enough, there will also be a chocolate fountain.

More than 400 guests are expected to cross the street from the Convention Center when the dinner ends to an MSNBC logo-swathed Washington Historical Society, at 801 K Street.

Maddow won’t be at the dinner; she’ll head to the party after doing her show; her “special cocktail” is being kept a tightly guarded secret. But an insider reveals the rest of the menu will include mini-milkshakes, ice cream bar, the chocolate fountain and breakfast, for those who stay to the bitter end. And a Starbucks Coffee Bar, in honor of the new “Morning Joe” sponsor. There won’t be a band, just a DJ.

MSNBC muscled in on the party after Fox News backed out. MSNBC was initially told Fox had locked up the Historical Society, the only party venue around in that part of town, and “It was this space or nothing,” said an insider. No official word on why Fox may have changed its mind but someone in the know said it was due to the ever-changing dinner date, from April 2 to June 4 to June 19, a Friday-and Father’s Day weekend, no less. (Many on-air talent types at all the networks are begging off this year because of the timing.)

NBC is going all-out with dinner tables, too, purchasing 13, which will seat administration guests including Attorney General Eric Holder; David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, senior advisers to President Obama; White House economic adviser Larry Summers; Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Congressional guests include Sen. Susan Collins, R.-Maine, and Rep. David Obey, D.-Wisc.

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NBC’s lengthy list of on-air talent attending includes: Chris Matthews, Pete WilliamsAndrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd, Tom Costello, Savannah Guthrie, Jim Miklaszewski, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, John Harwood, David Schuster, Carlos Watson, Tamron Hall, Contessa Brewer, Monica Novotny, Alex Witt, Ed Schultz, Norah O’Donnell, Dylan Ratigan, Willie Geist, Kelly O’Donnell and Luke Russert, as well as a number of commentators and analysts (Lawrence O’Donnell, Ana Marie Cox, Michelle Bernard, Eugene Robinson and Richard Wolffe.)

Execs include NBC News President Steve Capus, MSNBC President Phil Griffin, SVP and Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker, and Betsy Fischer, the longtime exec producer of “Meet the Press.”

“This is our year, this is our time. We’re the place for politics and we really wanted to make a big splash in D.C. at this dinner,” said spokesman Jeremy Gaines.

Fox News Bringing Ousted Miss USA Runner-Up Carrie Prejean to RTCA

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Prejean to be Fox News Guest at RTCA Dinner

Sitting at one of Fox News’ nine tables at Friday’s RTCA and bringing a bit of non-D.C. buzz to the event will be Carrie Prejean, the Miss USA runner-up who was stripped of her title as Miss California after pageant officials accused her of violating her contract.

Prejean, who has been exchanging snipes with pageant officials about just what happened-she denies doing anything wrong and accuses pageant officials of behaving badly — was a brief part of the Fox News family recently, when she guest-hosted the 6-7 a.m. hour of “Fox & Friends.”

Among the other Fox News guests is Melody Barnes, the White House Domestic Policy Adviser.

A partial list of the Fox News talent who will be in attendance (joining a number of Fox News execs) includes Carl Cameron, Major Garrett, Martha MacCallum, Mike Emanuel, Shannon Bream, Jennifer Griffin, Peter Barnes, Kelly Wright, Juan Williams and Catherine Herridge.

"NewsHour," ABC News Cutting Back on RTCA Tables This Year

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Jim Lehrer of PBS' "NewsHour"

Two of the news organizations that won’t be taking as many people to the RTCA dinner this year as in the past are PBS’ “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and ABC News.

In conjunction with “Washington Week with Gwen Ifill & National Journal,” “The Newshour” normally takes 15 tables, but this year, it is down to just two. The show’s financial crunch in the last year, due to corporate underwriting cutbacks, has been well documented.

“It’s a tight economic climate and we can’t afford it,” says Rob Flynn, VP of communications and marketing. “The organization is important to us and we’d like to do more.” Indeed, Linda Scott, producer of Capitol Hill and Congressional coverage for “The NewsHour,” will serve as chair of next year’s dinner.

Despite the smaller presence, the “NewsHour” snagged a high-profile administration guest. Sitting at one of its tables will be retired Marine Gen. James Jones, the National Security Adviser, and his wife Diane.

Also at the tables: “NewsHour” correspondent (and soon to be co-anchor) Judy Woodruff, PBS President CEO Paula Kerger and her husband Joe Kerger; the new COO of PBS, Michael Jones and his wife, Vicki Hawkins-Jones; and Les Crystal, the president of MacNeil Lehrer Productions. Ms. Ifill won’t be in attendance because “Washington Week” duty calls.

ABC News' Jonathan Karl

ABC News' Jonathan Karl

ABC News, meanwhile, will have just a single table. George Stephanopoulos won’t be there, but Jonathan Karl, the network’s senior congressional correspondent, will be in attendance, and of course Robin Sproul, VP and Washington bureau chief.

“We made a decision to cut back and have a smaller presence at the dinner this year. Since the White House Correspondents’ dinner was Obama’s first journalism dinner as President, we had a greater presence there and the guests to show for it. We’d also rather focus our resources on covering the news right now,” said spokeswoman Emily Lenzner.

2009 RADIO AND TELEVISION CORRESPONDENTS DINNER

Radio and TV Correspondents tell the story of this weeks’ dinner on video.

Wine policy explained in advance via Twitter feed

Not even the 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.


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 Capella 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.”

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“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.