Saturday, April 30, 2016

What It’s Like to Write Jokes for President Obama


PRESIDENT OBAMA and his anger translator were having issues. The motorcade was scheduled to leave for last year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in less than 20 minutes. We had one chance to rehearse the president’s closing sketch with the translator, “Luther,” who was played by the comedian Keegan-Michael Key. President Obama had no problem delivering his lines or pretending to go unhinged when talking about climate change deniers. “I do actually get mad sometimes, you know,” he said.

The problem was Luther. Each time Mr. Key, as the anger translator, began a new manic tirade, the president burst out laughing. Already dressed in his tuxedo for the evening, he glanced toward us, his staff, huddled in a corner of the room.

“I’ve got to hold it together,” Mr. Obama said. He said it again backstage a few hours later, this time using a comedy term for laughing in the middle of a scene. “I have to make sure I don’t break.”

He pulled it off. Like other leaders before him, Mr. Obama has gamely played his part in the annual correspondents’ dinner — the one on Saturday night, his eighth, will feature the comedian Larry Wilmore — and the large number of toasts, monologues and other comedic obligations that come with the world’s most powerful gig.

(More here.)


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