Aasif Mandvi, correspondent for Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and a star of HBO’s The Brink, will be the headliner for the 2015 Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner on March 25th.
Comedian Wayne Brady has been announced as the featured speaker at the upcoming Radio & Television Congressional Correspondents Dinner, which luckily for White House Correspondents Dinner entertainer Jimmy Kimmel, has been moved from the Spring to June.
Brady’s most recent DC gig was 3 nights of sold out performances at the Kennedy Center. Dinner Chairman Jay McMichael says “This is an evening you’ll want to experience. We’re shaking things up, showcasing the unexpected, and delivering lots of laughs.”
In addition to Brady’s acting, improv, singing, and dancing on television, film, and the stage, he also hosts the updated version of Let’s Make a Deal on CBS.
The Friday, June 8 dinner is traditionally attended by The President, the Congressional Leadership, media executives, Capitol Hill broadcast journalists and prominent newsmakers.
Look for a large team from ABC to be in the nation’s capitol to cheer Jimmy Kimmel on.
By Neil Grace and Catherine Hill
MSNBC threw a memorable Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner after-party that stood apart from parties past. Held directly across the street from the main event at the Washington Convention Center, MSNBC turned the traditionally staid Historical Society of Washington, D.C. into a brightly-lit fete of themed cocktails, glowing neon necklaces and comfort food.
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As guests walked down the blue carpet entrance, we asked them the question of the night: are you a nerd or a jock? Politico’s Mike Allen said he was “all of the above!” and Patrick Gavin thought he was a hybrid of the two. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell exclaimed she was a “total jock.” John “I’m a PC” Hodgman discussed the modern cultural divide at length during the dinner.
Inside the party, the scene downstairs included a Starbucks-sponsored coffee bar where guests ate ice cream sundaes and desserts. From the main bar, guests walked outside to a large outdoor patio, where dance music had the party-goers on their feet for “Don’t Stop Believing.” Faces and heads glowed in the light of neon necklaces and headbands.
Upstairs, special guest bartender Rachel Maddow was mixing up cocktails at her heavily-branded “Rachel Maddow’s Bar”– complete with MSNBC napkins and “Rachel’s Bar” menus. Maddow’s signature cocktail was listed as a Hearst: a mix of gin, sweet vermouth and bitters (though she told us she actually served more of her cava drink, “Airmail” which mixed rum, fresh lime juice, honey and the bubbly cava on top). Afterwards, Maddow relinquished her bar duties to catch up with Ana Marie Cox and John Hodgman.
Later in the night passed treats included mini-pancakes and mini-ham, bacon and cheese croissants. As the bars began to close, guests went out back. Among the last to leave at 3:00 a.m. were MSNBC Morning Joe’s Willie Geist, Luke Russert and many of the cable network’s junior staffers.
Media heavy-hitters spotted at the party: Steve Capus, Tamron Hall, Norah O’Donnell, Contessa Brewer with Matt Ackland, Joe Scarborough with Mika Brzezinski, David Shuster, Carlos Watson, Chris Matthews, Lynn Sweet, Margaret Carlson, and Eugene Robinson.
Politicos rounded out the guest list, including Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Obama economic adviser Larry Summers, as well as Hilary Rosen, Alex Castellanos, Brad Dayspring, and Kevin Madden.
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.
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…]
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.
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.
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.”
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.
A few more guest lists are now known for tonight’s 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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 Williams, Andrea 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.