Another bad day for the long tradition of comedians speaking truth to power, and then power smiling back with extremely thin lips in an effort to look like actual human beings: The White House Correspondents’ Dinner has been canceled for its second year running. The annual event, in which sitting presidents who are not too big of a baby to attend get to “enjoy” being roasted by celebrity comics, is one of the major social events of the Washington D.C. calendar, but was shuttered last year in deference to the COVID-19 pandemic. And has been again, as the White House Correspondents’ Association announced today that it simply couldn’t find a way to hold the event safely in 2021.
The appeal of the Correspondents’ Dinner for most non-Washington D.C. people, of course, is the comedy monologue, as best embodied by Stephen Colbert’s legendary takedown of George W. Bush in 2006, a scathing indictment of the entire Bush Doctrine that shook the sitting president so badly that he continued to do all the same shit he’d already been doing for the duration of his last two years in office. The subsequent 15 years have often felt like a response to Colbert’s undeniably daring set—the origins of his famed “Reality has a known liberal bias” line, among other jokes—whether by retreating rapidly from firebrand political content (hey, Jay Leno), or by tapping fellow Daily Show alums (Larry Wilmore, Hasan Minhaj, Michelle Wolf) to match his ire. The last few years of the event were noted mostly for the absence of their primary target/honoree, though, as Donald Trump opted not to even bother with the pretense of a single night’s good humor or humanity for the first three years of his term. (And COVID took care of the last.)