The White House Correspondents Association announced today that Joel McHale will host its centennial Correspondents Dinner. That’s right, this thing has been going on for 100 years! The “Community” star and “The Soup” host (our personal favorite McHale iteration) has big shoes to fill. Last year’s host, Conan O’Brien was widely praised for his routine, and Stephen Colbert delivered perhaps the best act in recent memory during the Bush presidency.
But McHale’s biggest competition may actually be Barack Obama. The President has displayed a sharp sense of humor at the event over the years; and has often upstaged the comedian who gets hosting duty -remember his birth video? McHale will also have to decide how edgy he wants to be. In the best case scenario, the WHCA Dinner is an opportunity for a performer to use comedy to speak truth to power. But it’s not easy. Wanda Sykes might be a good example of a comedian who went too far, while Ray Romano or Darrel Hammond, for example, played it safe.
Colbert, by contrast, got it just right. Sure, he left the room feeling uncomfortable, but he manged to deliver a pointed critique of Bush’s policies on Iraq, the NSA, and more, all with genuine wit and intelligence. McHale is known for being fairly witty himself, though it’s unclear if he has the political chops to delivery a truly memorable roast. One thing’s for sure though. These days, with the Correspondents Dinner having morphed into a huge media spectacle, a good performance can cement a comedian’s reputation as one of the greats. And a flop can be hard to live down.
Break a leg Joel!