If it feels like the White House Correspondents’ Dinner has been a drag for the last few years, well … it has.
The Washington tradition known as “nerd prom” used to be an opportunity to watch the President of the United States roast and be roasted. Critics say it was also an opportunity for journalists to schmooze with celebrities and the political officials they cover.
But the Donald Trump presidency has changed all that. Trump has skipped the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner every year since he took office – a testament to his hostile relationship with the news media. He went a step further this year, ordering his underlings to boycott it as well. The 2019 event also won’t feature a stand-up comedian as the featured speaker, another long-held tradition.
For those who yearn for the days when even TV coverage of the gala was worth ditching Saturday night plans for, here are some of the most memorable moments from past White House Correspondents’ Dinners.
That time Michelle Wolf caused an uproar
Comedian Michelle Wolf’s scathing 2018 performance made a lot of people uncomfortable, but her roast of White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, in particular, courted controversy.
“I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful. She burns facts, and then she uses the ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it; maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies,” Wolf joked.
Some people accused Wolf of attacking Sanders for her appearance, while others felt the barbs were appropriate given the press secretary’s history of making false statements to reporters.
That time Obama did a literal mic drop
President Barack Obama signed off his last White House Correspondents’ Dinner with two words: “Obama out.” Then, he dropped the microphone.
It was the mic drop heard round the world, and GIFs of the moment instantly went viral.
That time Obama had an anger translator
Obama turned an iconic Key & Peele sketch into reality at the 2015 dinner when he invited his anger translator, Luther, onstage to help get his real message across.
Turns out, he didn’t really need Luther’s help.
That time Obama took Trump to task
In 2011, Trump was just another celebrity attending the star-studded event – albeit one who’d just happened to ignite a national conspiracy theory about whether Obama was born in the United States (he was).
In his speech that year, Obama hit back at the birther movement and also made several jokes at Trump’s expense.
Yeah, it was awkward.
That time Stephen Colbert skewered Bush 43
Before Wolf, there was Stephen Colbert.
At the 2006 dinner, the late-night star got into character for a special edition of “The Colbert Report” and delivered a searing takedown of President George W. Bush.
“I know there’s some polls out there saying that this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don’t pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in ‘reality.’ And reality has a well-known liberal bias,” Colbert said.
The performance didn’t seem to go over well with the audience, and some Bush aides and supporters even walked out before Colbert wrapped up.
That time Bush had a double
Steve Bridges, known for his spot-on presidential impressions, joined Bush on stage in 2006 and did a hilarious impersonation of the 43rd President.
It’s hard to say who did a better job of poking fun at Bush, Bridges or Bush himself.
That time Laura Bush shaded her husband
For years, Laura Bush attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and didn’t draw much attention beyond her table.
But in 2005, the first lady brought out the zingers, shading her husband for going to sleep by 9 p.m. and for not being able to pronounce the word “nuclear,” among other barbs.
She also compared her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, to Don Corleone of “Godfather” fame.
Yeah, she went there.
That time Bill Clinton had nothing to do
The year was 2000, and Bill Clinton’s time in the White House was coming to an end.
This pre-taped video shown at the dinner followed Clinton through the seemingly lonely, final days of his presidency, as he trimmed hedges in the White House garden, washed the presidential limo and did his own laundry.
That time Reagan joked about his age
Until Trump, Ronald Reagan was the oldest president ever elected.
He nodded to that fact at the 1988 dinner with some self-deprecating humor.
It’s been “said that preparing me for a press conference was like reinventing the wheel. It’s not true. I was around when the wheel was invented, and it was easier,” Reagan said.
That time Reagan missed the dinner
Reagan skipped the 1981 dinner because he was at Camp David recovering from an assassination attempt weeks earlier.
But he called in to the event and even made a joke – during a back-and-forth with incoming White House Correspondents’ Association President Cliff Evans – about the frightening episode.
Reagan: I know that Cliff Evans must be there somewhere.
Journalist Bob Pierpoint: Yes.
Reagan: And, Cliff, let me send my congratulations to you as one new president to another. If you enjoy your office as much as I do mine, you’ll be a very happy and fulfilled man.
Evans: Well, you stay well, Mr. President, and we’ll take care of the pressroom, Pierpoint and I and all of my colleagues. Stay well.
Reagan: OK. If I could give you just one little bit of advice, when somebody tells you to get in a car quick, do it.
Here’s the full transcript of the call.