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‘Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner Review

The political universe has been wild over the past year. Typically, what one would do is toast the past year gone by with the Washington Correspondents’ Dinner, which is a rare opportunity to laugh whilst watching CSPAN. This year, the Daily Show’s Hasan Minhaj hosted after no comedian in America wanted to step up for the role to playfully roast the current President. I wonder why. Shockingly, the President bailed on this year’s dinner, which inspired Samantha Bee, TBS and the team at Full Frontal to toast the media in “Full Frontal’s Not The White House Correspondents Dinner”.

Samantha Bee has been killing it in the ratings with her show, Full Frontal. She is the only female in late night comedy at the moment, giving serious competition to her many male counterparts. So did this event live up to the show’s grandeur? Well, kinda.

The show began with a cold open, Allison Janney portrayed her West Wing character, CJ Cregg. For many fans of the show, it felt like an episode of the West Wing, and it parodied the new journalistic landscape in 2017. A nice touch occurred near the end of the segment, when a reporter named Joan Stern was dismissed by Cregg. This was a reference to what Bee and company called 2016 Green Party Presidential Candidate, Jill Stein.

The bad Peaches played the show in with a live rendition of the show’s theme song. It was a really cool way to start things, and really added to the show’s scale. Bee began the show with the familiar monologue. At the end of the monologue, she teases a surprise appearance at the presidential podium at the right of the stage, a nod to CNN who would ignore Hillary Clinton speeches whilst watching empty podiums in anticipation for then-candidate Donald Trump.

After a short break, her correspondents were brought on stage to tell a few jokes. First it was Allana Harkin, who has in the past produced Full Frontal’s greatest segments.The audience reacted well to her jokes and set up the others following her quite well. Second was Mike Rubin, someone who has done some great things on the show but overall has little air time. He talked about The Weather Channel a bit, with a few laughs smattering in the background. Amy Hoggart was next, who has been known for her piece on Donald Trump in Scotland. She gave a very British delivery on her jokes that contrasted very well with the other comedians. Ashley Nicole Black, the show’s most popular correspondent got quite the reaction from the audience before she could even begin. She lived up to the applause, very funny as usual.

I’d like to mention here that Samantha Bee’s joke about the ‘mazel tov cocktail’ was hilarious, I won’t spoil it but you won’t see it coming. CNN also got a bashing here, denouncing it’s right wing wacky contributors who do nothing but argue with the various hosts and other guests on the network. The rest of her story on CNN was generally quite tame compared to what she would normally say in her Wednesday night slot.

Following a segment with Steve Buschemi, this was more of a miss than a hit, the anticipated Fox News segment… and it was, like CNN, very tame in comparison. Whilst it was good that she talked about Rupert Murdoch’s past with his work at British paper, The Sun – she could’ve easily gone after the ousted Bill O’Reilly with his cringeworthy racism. What I am happy about is that she discussed Trump’s Fox News obsession.

The show played a pre-recorded segment from the set of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper. The feisty CNN host chewed out Sam Bee in a parody of his interviews with Kellyanne Conway. Very funny, it again teased this mystery guest which would follow in the next part of the show.

It wasn’t who I expected (I thought it would be Hillary Clinton as Bee introduced her at an event a few weeks ago) but instead the audience were pleasantly surprised that Will Ferrell walked out onstage reprising his famous SNL impression of George W Bush, which served as a sobering reminder of how he was considered toxic back in 2004, he’s far tamer now in 2017 standards. Ferrell plays the role well, stepping back in with ease. The audience ate it up, as expected. Only out there for five minutes, there was little use of the Presidential podium, but instead a stool sat centre stage, on top sat a paint-by-numbers portrait of Trump, a clear reference to Bush’s new art gig.
George Takei made a cameo next, in a pre-recorded segment that showed an alternative future if Hillary Clinton won the presidency. Sceptical at first, it was a hit by the end. Some of the night’s best jokes happened in this segment. She seemed more vicious here, which is the Samantha Bee we all know and love. She even got a jab in at former President Bill Clinton with a short but sweet retort. I’m sure you know what it was about, but for the few of you who didn’t know this – Bill Clinton once had an affair.

When the show came to a close, a pre-recorded segment with Ashley Nicole Black aired, with the audience going crazy for her again. It celebrated the free press, and advertised a number you can call to donate to the CPJ, Amy Hoggart quickly appeared as a cockney paperboy, demanding people support media by actually buying a newspaper. The show ended with Peaches playing the show’s theme song again, there could have been a better song to end the show on, but I’m not familiar with the band enough to say what.

So. How did the show fair? Okay. It wasn’t Samantha Bee’s funniest night, but it is a reminder of the show’s success and scale, with this event straying far from the New York studio. There was a lot of preparation here, which explains the show’s absence lately. There were definitely jokes and pitches that got axed due to the presence of companies like BuzzFeed and the New York Times; I can’t imagine they want to be associated with an event that makes vagina jokes every couple minutes. I hope Ashley Nicole Black gets more screen time following this, as she’s clearly a hit and the audience love her so. I’d love to see another next year, but on a larger scale. I wonder if this beat the real Correspondents Dinner in the ratings, I can’t imagine it had any leverage without President Trump. This was the event for the left wing ‘resistance’. Now if Trump gets a second term, can we get a ‘Not The Inauguration Ceremony’?

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