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5 Obama Jokes That Stood Out From His Gridiron Club Routine

There are no photos of last night's Gridiron Club dinner, but President Obama did plenty of laughing (and it looked something like this).
J. Scott Applewhite
There are no photos of last night's Gridiron Club dinner, but President Obama did plenty of laughing (and it looked something like this).

About three-quarters of the way through his joke routine, President Obama chuckled and said "this lame-duck stuff is fun." Indeed, unencumbered by re-election concerns, Obama seemed to relish his role of comic-in-chief at the 130th annual Gridiron Dinner in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, the oldest and most exclusive club for members of the Washington press corps.

Here are five notable lines from Obama's appearance, in order of delivery:

1. Pot Shot: "This is my third appearance at this dinner as president. And I predict you will laugh harder than ever. I'm not saying I'm any funnier. I'm saying weed is now legal in D.C. I know that's how you guys are getting through this dinner. That's why you ate the food."

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, seated at the long dais at the front of the room, laughed heartily at that one.

2. You've got mail: "Think about how things have changed since 2008. Back then, I was the young, tech-savvy candidate of the future. Now I'm yesterday's news, and Hillary has got a server in her house," Obama said with a look of bemusement and befuddlement. "I didn't even know you could have one of those in your house. I am so far behind. Did you know that? I would have gotten one."

He then turned to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the potential presidential candidate, who delivered the Republican comedy routine earlier in the night.

3. Gotta have faith: "The other week [Walker] said he didn't know whether or not I was a Christian. And I was taken aback, but fortunately my faith teaches us forgiveness. So, Gov. Walker, as-salamu alaykum."

4. Kenya feel the love: "Gov. Walker got some heat for staying silent when Rudy Giuliani said I don't love America — which I also think is a problem. Think about it, Scott — if I did not love America, I wouldn't have moved here from Kenya."

In another joke, about evolution, Obama said he absolutely believes in the theory — when it comes to gay marriage. He ribbed Dr. Ben Carson, another potential presidential candidate in the audience, on his recent statementsabout what happens in prison being proof homosexuality is a choice.

5. Political 'evolution': "The fact is, doctor, embracing homosexuality is not something you do because you go to prison; it's something you do because your vice president can't keep a secret on Meet the Press.

Governors Scott Walker and Terry McAuliffe Deliver Zingers, Too

The annual Gridiron dinner is something of a throwback to an earlier time. The dress code is floor length dresses for women and white tie and tails for men (there were a couple of Downton Abbey jokes). There are skits and dance routines skewering politicians of all stripes. Reading the names of distinguished guests, from baseball legend Hank Aaron to Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, seemed to take at least 10 minutes.

Another Gridiron tradition is to have dueling comedy routines from a Democrat and a Republican. Last night, Walker and Virginia's Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe did the honors.

Two from Walker:

1. "I even have Hillary's private e-mail. No, not that one. Not the other one, either. I have the special one that even Terry McAuliffe doesn't have. It goes right to her campaign headquarters, you know it's HillaryClinton@wallstreet.com. The best part about that joke is Elizabeth Warren wrote it for me."

2. "I was going to ask Martin O'Malley for advice, but like most voters, I have no idea who the hell he is."

(For the record, O'Malley is Maryland's recently former Democratic governor who is considering a run for president.)

Two from McAuliffe:

At one point during his turn at the lectern, McAuliffe leaned over giddily to see that the presidential seal was attached to the front. "Got the seal up there ... OK," he said, joking about potential aspirations to the highest office. Before becoming governor, McAuliffe was best known as a prolific — and enthusiastic — fundraiser with ties to the Clintons, which he referenced in one joke.

1. "In the Hillary Clinton administration, let me be clear, we will not rent out the Lincoln Bedroom. We'll just put it on Airbnb."

2. "Gov. Walker drew some criticism when he said that his experience with labor unions has prepared him for dealing with ISIS. And rightfully so. First, it's offensive to the men and women of organized labor and, second, it's just plain ridiculous. They have nothing in common. There is no way a union worker would ever work in that desert heat."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.