It’s “nerd prom” weekend in Washington D.C., and viewers who want to catch a glimpse of White House correspondents gone glam on Saturday (April 27) have a choice.
Those who tune in to C-SPAN for live coverage of the traditional White House Correspondents’ Dinner will see a pivot away from the customary roast after backlash over last year’s host, comedian Michelle Wolf, led to the selection of Alexander Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow for emcee. Those who opt to watch Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner, airing simultaneously on TBS, will get a healthy dose of barbed comedy, and then some.
Hosted by Full Frontal front woman Samantha Bee and taped Friday night (April 26) at D.C.’s DAR Constitution Hall in front of a live audience of journalists, entertainers and politicos, the event offered plenty of roasting amid segments that both celebrated and poked fun at the fourth estate. Guests included Brandon Victor Dixon, Bradley Whitford and Robert De Niro, who closed out the show.
De Niro went for laughs (“I f–king love fake news… I get a bad review? Fake news. If some nosy reporter finds out I never finished high school? Fake news. Those pictures my first wife’s divorce attorney showed me? More fake news. Fake news is fake, I’m glad I invented it!”) before going in for the kill.
“The president stole my phrase,” he continued. “You might say he moved in on it like a bitch. Now when he says fake news, he means ‘F–k, you caught me.’”
Bee, who hosted the inaugural Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner two years ago, wasn’t planning to repeat the event. But then, “our president tweeted the White House Correspondents’ Dinner should change. And they did it,” she said incredulously at the event. “No one should ever do what the president tweets at them.”
She went on to mock Donald Trump for sitting out the WHCD for the third year.
“I want to focus on what a f–king coward he is,” she said. “Imagine being the most powerful man in the world and you can’t listen to a comedian razz you for five minutes?” She recalled several luminaries who’ve withstood the tradition of roasting, including former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and Justin Bieber.
“Even he’s braver than you,” she quipped, “and he once let a monkey go to jail for him.”
Bee’s special also serves as the television debut of rapper Saweetie, a mainstay on the festival scene since her song “ICY GRL” went viral last year.
Saweetie opened the show with a reboot of the 2006 Peaches song and Full Frontal theme “Boys Wanna Be Her,” which Peaches had performed at the inaugural Bee event.
“She wanted me to create my own hip-hop version of it,” Saweetie told Billboard before the event. “So I wrote original lyrics that list my accomplishments, I shout Samantha Bee out, I shout out other women. It’s a song that says to women, be fearless and go out there and get it.”
Supporting an event that “sheds light on the real things that are happening in America” was a natural fit, Saweetie said.
“I think it’s extremely important. I love that I’m able to support free speech because that’s exactly what music is. Especially in the hip-hop industry, and especially being a female, there have been plenty of times when women are told they can’t say this, they can’t say that. So it’s so nice to be able to say what I want to say while supporting such a monumental event.”
Bee herself indulged in a few musical numbers, including an ode to investigative reporters, such as the Washington Post‘s David Fahrenthold. “There’s only one thing I can’t resist, that’s a good investigative journalist,” she crooned. “I like it AP, Chicago, or doggy style. You know my favorite centerfold is an oiled up David Fahrenthold.” She also performed a duet with Dixon, who schools her My Fair Lady-style that “racists who do racism are racist.”
Between the barbs and the irreverence, Bee continually reminded the audience of the night’s overarching purpose: To celebrate members of the media and those committed to reaffirming the First Amendment.
“A number of people in this room received bomb threats from a man inspired by Donald Trump,” she said at one point. “Thank you for holding the president and all of us accountable.”
As with the first Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, all proceeds will be donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists.