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When Politics are Funny and Theatrical

Along with the new interest I have developed in news I talked about last week, I also alluded to the fact that I have gained an interest in politics I never thought would happen.

Keeping with this thought and always looking for the lighter side of politics, I looked forward with great anticipation to this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner May 1. It has turned into an entertainment venue as well as a colorful political event. There was even a “Red Carpet” affair prior to the dinner. I saw this part of the coverage previewed on CNN with a buildup similar to that of Oscar fever.

Even though Jay Leno was hired as the main event for a comedian, President Obama took over with comments that he was glad he wasn’t following Jay Leno’s time slot (and we all know what happened to Conan Obrien). Obama, who showed at last year's event he has the gift of comic timing, got more laughs than Leno, and even some at the comedian's expense.

"The only person whose ratings fell more than mine last year is here tonight," the president said. "It is Jay." Leno was sitting a few feet away.

NBC's late-night host bombed last year when he moved to a primetime slot, according to Ewen MacAskill of “The Guardian.”

I am so new at the whole political game, but my feelings are very strong about liking self-deprecating humor, which Obama used. He made fun of himself, his health care bill and the vice president as much as he did Leno, his political opponents and the press. He did make note that the press generally has good intentions with their coverage and he was willing to overlook and rise above the jabs they took at him and his policies.

Obama managed to thread the needle of being funny without being offensive and then bringing the speech around to the serious point that a free nation needs a free press. Although being good natured for most of his jabs, he did make a note about FOX news. Susan Milligan of the Boston Globe noted that, “Obama teased the news organizations present: Fox News, for being hyper-critical, and MSNBC for being fawning. The Politico got slammed for (allegedly) focusing on political minutiae [details] and polls.”

Obama even used some effective multi-media with fake headlines showing how Politico would have faulted Lincoln for losing the southern white vote and for the Continental Congresses failure to work things out with England so that “Independence is Dead.”

I was mesmerized by the overall tone of the commentary at the dinner and I found myself in agreement with many of the points Obama brought to life.  It was good to see political enemies coming together at this dinner and showing they could still have camaraderie after all the opposing views.

About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site