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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
White House Correspondents Dinner
Aired May 3, 2014 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Please?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.
TURNER: Can I call Brianna out?
Because last year, you know, Brianna and I did this red carpet together. And I was going to tell you, she was very, like, worried about, I don't want to show too much -- I'm a White House correspondent --
LEMON: Look at her now.
TURNER: Look at her now, shoulders everywhere.
LEMON: Between her and S.E. --
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of skin!
LEMON: Her and S.E. are like --
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm covered.
LEMON: Her and S.E. are right away from a wardrobe malfunction.
KEILAR: What do you mean? Excuse me, I'm not.
KEILAR: I told S.E., I'm like, you can just drape a napkin across there.
KEILAR: No, it's beautiful dress. She can't fiddle with it, you know.
TURNER: You know, congratulations to you. You should be honored and soak it all in and be happy.
KEILAR: This is so cool! Thank you so much. Thank you, Don.
LEMON: There's a lot of this going on for Brianna and S.E. up here, up here. Up here. KEILAR: This is completely reasonable! This is completely reasonable attire!
MALVEAUX: The guys don't talk about it, but it's what they do. Girls stuff.
LEMON: I feel like I've devolved into a bad version of "The View." All right. Thank you, guys! Love you guys! Congratulations, Brianna. Thank you, angels.
Oh, oh, no, hang on. I want the guys to weigh in. I want the guys -- what do you think of the outfit and the award?
Up here, up here. My eyes are up here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess I'm second juniorist person here. Brianna, congratulations. I've enjoyed watching you for many years. Prior to getting here, I think the work you're doing is awesome and I'm super jealous you're up on stage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brianna, we haven't met, I don't know you, but I think we all remember where we were when Jake Tapper won his third Merriman Smith Award in row. He took it home 2010, 2011 and 2012, and I hope you get your own together, because you definitely deserve it, again, having not met you.
KEILAR: Thank you! Nice to work with you.
LEMON: Brianna is so embarrassed right now. I can't wait for the text. I am going to kill you!
KEILAR: OK, guys!
LEMON: She is so -- she is, she's leaning on her ear, like, please, tell me to wrap, please!
TURNER: You just came from the room. Is there anybody who you've spoken to tonight --
KEILAR: Right behind us is Anna Kendrick, who I'm a huge fan of.
MALVEAUX: Where are you sitting, by the way?
KEILAR: Where am I sitting?
MALVEAUX: Yes, where are you sitting?
KEILAR: I'm kind of like to the left and a little ways back, we're pretty far back. It's a huge room. So, Anna Kendrick, I saw Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who I know you interviewed and he is just -- obviously, he's tall. Pretty amazing. And all the "House of Card" folks.
So, if you're kind of like -- you know, here and there's also "Veep" folks as well.
You know, Don, we totally here in Washington geek out for these Washington-themed shows and so many people do as well. So we're like really into the "Veep" and "House of Cards."
LEMON: Already, we're having a little bit of fun, but in all seriousness, thank you, Brianna, for being such a good sport.
KEILAR: Thanks, Don. I really appreciate it.
LEMON: I'll see you soon. I look forward to the nasty texts.
So, we're watching the White House correspondents' dinner and there you see in that small little screen, we can pull it up, that is the inside of the room. You're seeing the first lady and also this is the man of the hour -- well, the president really is, but Joel McHale is the person who is going to sort of roast everybody in Washington tonight.
And we are covering the White House Correspondents' Dinner live for you. We're taking you inside the room, right here on CNN. Don't go anywhere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK DUFFY, ACTOR: I'm stunned. I spent a day and a half now without sleeping, just because there is so much going on over this weekend. And it's fascinating, for a political junkie, it's very rewarding. And I'm just observing life on the other side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Very nice. That was a red carpet, and take a look at the red carpet tonight. As you saw, there is no way you could count all the A-list television and movie stars that were on. There's Patrick Stewart, that's just one of them. There were tons of them. Of course, here's Barbara Walters.
The White House Correspondents' Dinner is starting to look a lot like the Oscars, it really is. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. You know, it's gone mainstream Hollywood, but that wasn't always the case. As longtime Hilton Hotel employees will tell you, it was a lot different when it all got started, OK?
So here's -- listen to CNN's Erin McPike.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct honor and privilege to introduce to you --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of the United States.
ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What started as a party of 50 is now the hottest night in D.C. So when did it explode?
JULIAN WHISTON, EXEC. DIR., WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION: Coincidentally, when I started, 1993, but it was because it was Bill Clinton's first dinner, they had a very large Hollywood following and they wanted to be at the dinner.
MCPIKE (on camera): And then Barack Obama had an even bigger Hollywood following.
MCPIKE (voice-over): The woman who's pulled it off for 22 years, Julia Whiston, mother of four daughters.
(on camera): Which was harder? Any one of those four weddings or Barack Obama's first dinner?
WHISTON: Barack Obama's first dinner, yes.
MCPIKE (voice-over): That skyrocketing popularity led to executive chef Andre Cote's most memorable moment.
ANDRE COTE, EXECUTIVE CHEF, WASHINGTON HILTON: The biggest surprise a few years ago seeing a couple hundred people walk through the kitchen and come to find out it was all the celebrities.
GORDON MARR, DIRECTOR OF FOOD & BEVERAGE, WASHINGTON HILTON: I guess the word went out that it was an easy way to get into the ballroom.
MCPIKE: After decades at the Hilton, director of food and beverage, Gordon Marr knows stars descending on D.C. can be interesting.
MARR: Probably the most bizarre one was Sharon Stone when she was here a number of years ago wanted everything Pureed.
MCPIKE: Stone's not the only one special requests.
(on camera): The first President Bush hated broccoli.
MARR: I definitely knew that. We didn't have broccoli on any of the menus.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I had the Secret Service come over here this afternoon and the place was clean, no broccoli. Never -- but -- seriously!
MCPIKE (voice-over): As for Clinton, when celebs weren't audience enough --
MARR: We did have a habit of going back into the kitchen. They loved it. It was just an experience that we've not had with anybody else.
MCPIKE: Longtime staff also remember Clinton usually late. Both Bushes, always early. And whether they're serving a punctual Republican or a celeb-mobbed Democrat, it's always an honor for the wait staff who treat all tables as VIP.
Banquet director Kevin Oshie (ph) says he's got a steady crew. Many worked the dinner 25 years running. Then, there's this guy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Francisco Pralter (ph), who's worked every head tape since Lyndon Johnson and will be working head table this year for the last time.
MCPIKE (on camera): The last time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's retiring after 44 years with hotel.
LEMON: That's very interesting.
So that was Erin McPike. Erin is inside of the room, we're trying to get ahold of her, but she's busy yakking it up.
So, Michael, listen, we were just talking about, this didn't used to be as popular as it was, right? Because they just started broadcasting it --
: I think so. I think once they put it on TV, everybody wanted to be there. Everyone wants to be on TV. That's what we're doing here. Makes sense.
LEMON: Yes. I remember when I started watching it. And at first I didn't, it was kind of something that was on different, another network for a long time, never really paid attention to it. And then when CNN started carrying the entire thing, that's really when I started paying attention. And I think most of America probably did the same thing.
And now, it is probably one of the most tweeted about, Facebooked, Instagramed site of events of the year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, Yakov Smirnoff gave the speech in 1988, one year later, the Berlin Wall came down. Now, history tells us those events were not related, but hard to argue with those numbers. You know?
LEMON: What are you talking about?!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Russia, wall brings down you. Did he say that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if a transcript exists of his speech, because it was clearly effective.
LEMON: There you see the president in the center of your screen. The president is going to speak tonight and we're going to carry that.
Plus, we're going to look at some of the comics that performed at past dinners, when we come right back.
LEMON: Welcome back, everyone, to CNN's coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
We're going to take you inside that room at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., where almost 3,000 people are eating now and they're preparing to listen to the president and Joel McHale.
He joins a long list of comedians who have entertained viewers and attendees at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
A look back at some of the best routines through the years.
CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN: Also, I would like to acknowledge that earlier this evening, there was some confusion with the seating chart. For a moment, someone accidentally sat Governor Chris Christie with the Republicans. That was awkward and I apologize. Very awkward.
Mr. President, you're going to leave office as a very young man and yet the presidency has taken its toll. I don't want to alarm you, sir, but you're starting to look like a judge on "Law & Order." Just say you're on thin ice, counselor, you could have that part right away. Seriously, Mr. President, your hair is so white, it could be a member of your cabinet.
JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: Mr. President, I know you won't be able to laugh about any of my jokes about the Secret Service, so cover your ears, if that's physically possible.
Last week, we learned that the president's two favorite steaks are rib eye and seeing eye. And it doesn't matter if you're black like President Obama or white like President Obama or red like President Obama's agenda, remember when the country rallied around you in hopes of a better tomorrow? That was hilarious.
SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN: And then, of course, there's Donald Trump. Donald trump has been saying that he will run for president as a Republican, which is surprising, since I just assumed as he was running as a joke.
Donald Trump often appears on FOX, which is ironic, because a fox often appears on Donald Trump's head.
And if you're at "The Washington Post" table with Trump and you can't finish your entree, don't worry, the fox will eat it. STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDIAN: I stand by this man. I stand by this man, because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things -- things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.
JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: Rosie O'Donnell was the president's first choice to be here this evening and she withdrew, citing a nasty and brutal confirmation process. I wasn't even the second choice. Dennis Miller was the second choice, but he got hung out by an illegal nanny technicality.
But isn't that what the confirmation process is all about here in Washington? Weeding out the truly qualified to get to the truly available.
LEMON: See, everyone matures. Everyone gets better with age, hopefully.
That reminds me, remember Jon Stewart, you guys don't remember him back on the Channel 9 days, he had his own show on Channel 9, late night.
So they're eating there in D.C. Fabulous. We read the menu earlier. I think it was filet mignon, and this is what we're having.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vending machine snack food. It doesn't get any better than that.
LEMON: Can I have one of those?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, these are really good. Cheetos are my favorite.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fritos and Snickers, this is like --
LEMON: That's really good. Ever do chili with those?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. A bowl of chili with Fritos and chase it with a Snickers just like eating the American flag.
LEMON: My old time favorite is potato chips, a snake bar and a Coke. Ridiculous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Strong, strong combo.
LEMON: You like that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could work like a 20-hour shift after that. That's got everything you need to be healthy.
LEMON: That's what I do for live shots, that's where I get that from.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or you could be 20 hours from an emergency room.
LEMON: We had the food bib on and they were sending our things that they like to serve. They were like mayonnaise, Doritos, chips, cheese-its, and she's thinking, what's wrong with America? I'm saying, what's right with America?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We like delicious food. I don't think there's anything wrong with that?
UNIDENTIIFED MALE: Nothing gets better --
LEMON: All right. Let's get back to what we're doing here, White House Correspondents' Dinner. At least we're doing that because they're having a fancy meal. This is our fancy meal on set here at CNN.
Coming up, Jake Tapper's exclusive interview with Joel McHale and some delicious Doritos.
LEMON: Welcome back, everyone. CNN's live coverage of the 2014 White House Correspondents' Dinner.
I'm Don Lemon. Welcome. We're going to take you inside this room. We promise you that you'll have a fabulous, fun time, and you will laugh a lot. We always do, every year.
This is a comedian's dream -- to perform in front of an audience of thousands of people. Not only thousands of people, the most influential people in the world. It includes the president of the United States, impressive Hollywood celebrities, even the best comedians get nervous about this.
CNN's Jake Tapper sat down with Joel McHale to hear how he is preparing for this big challenge.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The night's guests include the powerful, political, the posh, and the president who often tells jokes over dinner.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The press and I have different jobs to do. My job is to be president. Your job is to keep me humble. Frankly, I think I'm doing my job better.
TAPPER: Sounds swell, but for comedians, the invitation to play at D.C.s annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner comes not without trepidation.
O'BRIEN: Now, I've made some jokes about the president this evening and now I'm looking forward to my audit.
JOEL MCHALE, HOST, "THE SOUP": I called Conan, I called Seth, I called Jimmy, and I called Craig Ferguson to gather information. It's all pretty much the same advice, which was, this is the weirdest thing you will ever do and the most exhilarating thing you'll ever do.
TAPPER: This year, the honor goes to Joel McHale, long-time host of "The Soup" on E!
MCHALE: Yes! Yes! Yes, yes, yes!
TAPPER: Where his snarky celebrity commentary has earned him a devoted fan base.
MCHALE: I'm Joel McHale.
KIMMEL: No, I'm Joel McHale.
TAPPER: McHale has also burst into fame for his role on the critically acclaimed sitcom "Community," a show that has yet to renew for next season, angering its millions of fans.
MCHALE: We saved Greendale.
TAPPER (on camera): So "The Soup," "Community," White House Correspondents' Dinner, was this always the plan?
MCHALE: This is exactly how I wanted my career to go.
TAPPER: Do you think this gives you the respectability that you didn't have before?
MCHALE: Absolutely not.
TAPPER (voice-over): Against the backdrop of Washington Monuments from D.C.'s W Hotel, Joel sat down to tell me how he has prepared for what might be his toughest crowd ever.
MCHALE: What I've learned is there are so many powerful people, rich people that long ago they made enough money and have enough power to never laugh again. So they want to hear jokes about them. Even though they might not want to be roasted, they are the most important person in any other room so they want that feeling.
TAPPER: I think you got it down.
MCHALE: See, I'm going to say it to them.
TAPPER: The White House Correspondents' Dinner has been criticized a lot for reporters being too chummy with people in power, for all of the celebrities that now come. Tom Brokaw started boycotting it after Lindsay Lohan was invited.
MCHALE: Oh, who cares? It's just, it's just -- it's just an excuse to go out and have a fun night and party. I want to hear like, I'm not going to that anymore. It's not what it was. And I'm just like, all right, well, we have way bigger problems.
TAPPER: Are you worried at all about hurting feelings on Saturday night or is that kind of -- are you excited? MCHALE: Oh, no. I'm not worried -- you can't -- if I am so effective that -- you, I can't believe you said that and they storm the stage, then it might just be the best joke of all time. But, no, this -- I can't imagine. But, hey, you never know.
TAPPER: I'm sure you're holding back. You're not going to be tough on President Obama, for instance, right?
MCHALE: No, not at all. I'm not going to tell any jokes about him. Nope.
TAPPER: I'm sure you're not going to tell jokes about him, but you wouldn't --
MCHALE: If you become too strident in these things, if it's not funny, then it's not funny and you just look like a guy yelling at someone. It has to be funny before anything else. You have to be an equal opportunity make funner of, make funner of which is a catch phrase that I -- and also proper English, by the way, funner.
So, if you don't make fun of everybody, everybody is going to go, hey, what about that guy? It just has to be equal opportunity.
TAPPER (voice-over): And in the spirit of keeping things even, once we wrapped our interview at the W, I joined Joel as a guest on the set of "The Soup", where CNN has been before.
MCHALE: Wolf Blitzer took on the Weiner-gate story with his usual beardy tenacity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got Chuck Todd doing the cold open.
MCHALE: Yes, deal with it, Tapper!
TAPPER: No hard feelings. After a bit of rehearsal with fellow guests Chuck Todd of NBC and "Scandal's" Katie Lows, it was go time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tapper!
TAPPER (on camera): Todd?
(voice-over): From "The Soup's" green screen to the golden curtain of the correspondents' dinner, Joel McHale seems ready to go up against anything.
Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.
LEMON: Thank you, Mr. Tapper.
"New Yorkers", what's wrong with me? "New Yorker's" Washington correspondent and CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza -- Ryan, we're having too much fun here. It's almost like we're not working.
How are you? RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm good. Thanks for having me. So I actually just saw Joel downstairs with his three, with his three writers. And I have to say, he looked totally confident and ready to go. His three writers were all like drinking heavily and sweating.
LEMON: Did you get a chance to talk to him?
LIZZA: I did, yes, for about five minutes while we were waiting in line. And he seemed like a little bit of a pre-game jitters.
LIZZA: We were talking about, you know, what this crowd is like. You know, the sort of inside Washington crowd. Basically, they've got a very narrow range, right? You can't go too negative on the president or the press, because everyone gets a little sensitive. But you also have to sort of know the inside world of American politics to get a good laugh out of this crowd.
And we were sort of talking about the comedians that have pulled it off over the years and the ones that haven't.
LIZZA: I won't mention any names, but he seemed very, very familiar with everyone's previous performances.
LEMON: All right. Well, let me talk about some of those that didn't kill, which many people at home probably thought they killed, but the people in the room didn't, and that was Stephen Colbert. There was a bit of controversy around Stephen Colbert. People thought he went too far when it came to President Bush.
LIZZA: Yes, I mean, I think you watch that act now and it's pretty funny. But at the time, I was in the room when he did that, and I'll be honest, there were a lot of people who both in the Bush administration and a lot of people in the press corps who thought it wasn't in good taste, that he went too far, that he attacked everyone in Washington.
But, you know, as you said, I doubt people who watched it out in the real world thought that. I think it stands up pretty well if you go back and watch it now.
LEMON: I think the interesting thing is, you know, just being -- the longer you're on television, the more people get to know you, right, Ryan? You know this.
LEMON: Everyone in the room knows this.
And so, the longer you do this -- the longer you're in the public eye, you have to -- you must have a sense of humor at all times and not take your -- and not take yourself too seriously, because it will drive you crazy. So I'm really surprised that politicos take themselves that seriously all the time, many of them.
LIZZA: Well, I'll never forget. The first one of these I went to was in the late '90s, when Bill Clinton was in the middle of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and those were some brutal, brutal acts, you know, with bill Clinton and his wife, sitting on the dais with the comedian and they were talking about the Lewinsky scandal. And Clinton, you know, obviously he sat there and took it.
That's sort of the rule, you've got to sit there and take it no matter how harsh it gets.
LEMON: Absolutely. So, Ryan Lizza, I understand you're there and you have an entourage and you have been selfie-ing it up. I think we have a selfie --
LIZZA: I took one picture, one picture.
LEMON: Oh, that is Mindy Kaling, Lupita Nyong'o and who else? Who are you with? It's small in our screen.
LIZZA: Zoe Deschanel.
LIZZA: Actually, I look after. If you look closely behind my ear is the guy who plays the president in "Scandal".
LEMON: Yes, Tony Goldwyn, he plays Fritz."
LIZZA: And the bad guy in "Ghost."
LEMON: Molly, you're in danger, girl!
LIZZA: They were all very kind. I sort of like, you know, had to negotiate and bring them all together in this small space.
LEMON: Now that I've seen Lupita Nyong'o's dress, I understand why people are tweeting me saying that you're wearing the matching bow tie to Lupita' dress. I have no idea.
LIZZA: Yes. You know, people on Twitter are really mean, making fun of my bow tie, saying it's too small.
LEMON: What's wrong with the bow tie! My bowtie or your bowtie?
LIZZA: I need you to get down here and dress me, Don Lemon.
LEMON: It is Twitter. They're talking about your bow tie, right?
LEMON: A little on the small side. Nobody got. Nobody got. Was I the only one that got that? OK, anyway, Ryan Lizza --
LEMON: Ryan --
LIZZA: Oh, man.
LEMON: Thank you. Go back in and have fun. We appreciate you coming out.
LIZZA: Thanks for having me.
LEMON: All right. Up next, comedian and former presidential speechwriter, Ben Stein. How does the White House prepare for a night like this? Well, he should know better than most of us.
You're watching CNN's live coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
LEMON: All right. We're back with CNN's special coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
And joining me now is, here in studio, Michelle Collins. She is a writer and comedian. Also, Michael Torpey, an actor and writer, and then there's Brett Larson, who is our tech analyst.
And also joining us is actor, humorist, and economist, Ben Stein. Also a speechwriter for Presidents Nixon and Ford.
So, just want to let you know, the program is going to get started in just a bit, so I have to cut you guys off, I want to apologize in advance.
First to Ben -- did you help Nixon or Ford prep speeches for the White House correspondents' dinner?
BEN STEIN, ACTOR, HUMORIST, ECONOMIST: I helped Mr. Nixon, but not Mr. Ford. But he was at that time in such a bad odor with the press corps, it was a sort of hopeless task.
LEMON: Ben, how do you tell a president if his joke is just not funny, it's just not working?
STEIN: Mr. Nixon didn't really make up any of his own jokes. We had a few jokes for him. And I had very few of those. The main guy writing those is a guy named ray price and he was very funny.
Mr. Nixon had an incredible sense of humor, he just didn't write them down. But he had a very, very, very good sense of humor.
LEMON: What would you advise President Obama to stay away from tonight? STEIN: I would stay away from anything involving foreign policy. I mean, his foreign policy has been such a catastrophe, I would stay well away from that, and just concentrate on the good things. He's had a very good time lately with the economy and I would concentrate on that.
And he's a very likable guy. I mean, he's basically just an extremely lovable guy and I think if he just concentrates on showing his lovable side, he will be very well-liked. And this is a crowd prepped to love him. These are his people. They love him.
LEMON: And even those who are there, who don't love him, they're still going to laugh at his jokes, one would think, right?
STEIN: Oh, absolutely, without question. Now, you could not ask for a better marriage between a speaker, comedian, an audience, than Mr. Obama and the Washington press corps. They love him.
LEMON: So, I want to bring my panel in. They may have some questions for you as well.
So, Ben, I'm sure you heard Michelle Collins is here, Michael Torpey, Brett Larson, who is our tech analyst.
What we've been talking about, too, Ben, is this weird intersection between Hollywood and Washington and everyone yaks it up when day get together in this crowd, Republican, Democrat, no matter what you are.
STEIN: Well, they're happy to be there. I mean, it's a power place. I've been to it a number of times. It's a power place.
By being there, you show you're an important, powerful person, often show you're a rich person. And everybody wants to be there.
It's like the cool kids' table in high school. Everyone wants to be at the cool kids' table and the correspondents' dinner is a cool kids' table.
LEMON: Michelle, this is a cool kids' table you're sitting at tonight and you were talking to Ben Stein.
MICHELLE COLLINS, COMEDIAN: And Ben Stein who -- my dream in life was to have some of his money.
STEIN: Well, there's very little -- Ben Stein has made some very big mistakes and there's very little of it left, so you're very kind.
COLLINS: I still feel like chemistry between us and just want to put that out there.
LEMON: You're the money adviser guy and you're saying that you blew it all, it's gone? STEIN: I didn't blow it all, but I could have a lot more of it if I made a number of better decisions. But --
COLLINS: What was it? Drinking?
MICHAEL TORPEY, COMEDIAN: Did you not have clear eyes?
TORPEY: That was good.
STEIN: It was really simple, not buying enough Berkshire Hathaway. I would have had a lot more.
COLLINS: Classic Ben Stein.
TORPEY: All my money went to Madoff.
LEMON: Berkshire Hathaway with Ben Stein's on, and when he's not, we're eating Doritos, on the set.
BRETT LARSON, CNN TECH ANALYST: I love Doritos.
LEMON: We had Doritos, Cheese-its and that was our dinner tonight, because it was making us hungry.
STEIN: Here at your studio in L.A., we don't have anything. We don't have nothing.
LEMON: Did you even have a makeup person? Seriously --
STEIN: Yes, I had to pick -- I had a makeup person, but I had to pay for her myself out of my own pocket.
LEMON: We've got to go to the video! Go to the video!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's what we're going to do. I've got about 15, 20 minutes. Everyone sit down.
Please be seated. Please be seated.
Please, everybody, be seated!
Good evening, everybody. Please be seated.
Everybody, please have a seat! Have a seat!
Please, everybody, have a seat! Have a seat.
Please, everybody, have a seat. Except you guys you guys can't sit.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: I don't really know what to do. Should I wave? Let's sit down, everyone.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please, everybody, have a seat.
M. OBAMA: I'm so proud of y'all. Sit down and rest your feet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ladies and gentlemen, we're going to begin our program. We're going to start tonight with one of our favorite parts, which is the awarding of our awards for excellence in journalism. To help us with that is a valued member of our board, Doug Mills. A terrific photojournalist, the photography seen on our board, a valuable eye and a good friend, Doug Mills.
DOUG MILLS: Good evening.
The first award of the night is the Aldo Beckman Award. The judges chose two winners tonight for the Aldo Beckman Award, which recognizes repeated excellence in White House coverage.
The winners are Glen Thrush of "Politico" and Brianna Keilar of CNN.
MILLS: The next award is the Merriman Smith Award. The Merriman Smith Memorial Award recognizes work in both print and broadcast.
The print winner is Peter Baker of "The New York Times".
LEMON: All right. That's the award ceremony. And our very own Brianna Keilar got her award tonight. So, we're very excited for her.
LARSON: We were clapping.
LEMON: That wasn't the video that we were talking about, by the way, the big video. That video is coming up.
So, we're back now, and back now with all my guests. Ben Stein is in Los Angeles. Joining me here on set is Michelle Collins, Michael Torpey, and Brett Larson.
You were saying there, Mr. Stein, before we were so rudely interrupted by the folks at the White House Correspondents' Dinner -- why aren't you there?
STEIN: Well, they didn't invite me. I'm not cool enough. I've been in the past, but I'm not cool enough anymore. I'm just uncool. I'm a nerdy, uncool person, part of the uncool crowd.
COLLINS: I don't like to hear you talk about yourself that way, Ben. I really don't.
STEIN: Well, thank you. I wish I were cool. I would give almost anything to be cool. COLLINS: I was in L.A. --
STEIN: I think I need a cooler car. I think I need a cooler car.
COLLINS: Like a Chevy Impala. Or how cool --
TORPEY: Or like an electric Tesla car. What are we talking here, Ben?
STEIN: I don't know, I think the Bentley convertible. Usually the people at CNN are given Bentley convertibles as a gift.
LEMON: Someone has played a cruel joke on my since I ride the subway every day. So, back to --
STEIN: Well, I don't know --
LEMON: Go ahead, Ben.
STEIN: I was going to say, here in L.A., it's different. We don't have a subway at CNN, we just have the Bentleys coming back and forth from Beverly Hills to here.
I don't know why I'm not at the dinner. I just am a very uncool, lost soul.
TORPEY: Really stumbled on to something. This is really unfortunate.
LARSON: Are we like to call Dr. Drew here? We need an intervention!
TORPEY: I really am feeling bad. I'm feeling very bad.
LEMON: OK, so, what do we think -- what do you think the bulk of the jokes will be about? Because there's usually a theme, right? It's usually about some running subject that's in the news, Ben.
STEIN: Well, there are so many subjects that it could be about. It could be about, as I said, the collapse of foreign policy, it could be about the recovery in the economy. There certainly will be lots about Donald Sterling, that very, very unfortunate situation.
COLLINS: I want V. Stiviano to host. Am I wrong? I want V. Stiviano to host tonight.
STEIN: That's a great idea. That is a brilliant.
COLLINS: Because did you see her Barbara Walters interview?
STEIN: I didn't see it, but I saw her riding around on her roller skates saying she was going to be president of the United States. And you know, the way things are going, I can believe it too. Maybe she will be. LEMON: I wish I had bought stock in that sun visor, that solar visor, because I went online and bought two of them. And one of my friends said it was going to be her Halloween costume.
COLLINS: Well, Halloween is a while away. It's going to be like the Aretha hat. After two months, it's like --
LARSON: It's over.
LEMON: I can only imagine, here's my guess. I think there are going to be lots of Web site jokes. We tried to, but we couldn't get the website to work.
STEIN: New media, right. New media jokes. Lots of new media jokes. Mr. Obama is a new media president. Right, good point. I probably should have learned how to get that --
LEMON: Hold on.
STEIN: -- Twitter and maybe I'll get to the cool kids table.
LEMON: Did you just say help --
LARSON: Arianna Huffington would have offered you a column. She won't pay you, but she'll give you a column on her Web site.
STEIN: I doubt Arianna Huffington would give me much. I don't think she's one of mine -- I don't think Arianna is one of my big fans. I wish she were, but I don't think she is. But God bless her anyway.
Now, I should have learned how to Twitter, I should get that Bentley convertible that I think Ted Turner promised me about 30 years ago.
COLLINS: He won't give up on this Bentley. Like, get over it, Stein. It's not happening.
STEIN: I do have a -- I do have an extremely beautiful wife. That's sort of like --
COLLINS: Oh, OK. What are we talking about here? This is CNN!
LEMON: Seventy-five dollars for this hour of therapy that we're offering. Ben, what's it like preparing for this in the White House right now? Or before, when you prepare?
STEIN: I -- very intense, hard work. White House speechwriters work like demons. They work very long hours, they work in modest circumstances. They are like flawed children in a Dickensian novel.
LEMON: So they're going back and forth -- I know.
LARSON: Let's scale that back. This is like -- LEMON: All right, we've got to go to the video, everybody, quiet on the set. Video.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are the watchdogs, the historians, the daily observers of the White House. An unofficial assembly of journalists assigned to watch with clear eyes and break news. They are the White House Correspondents' Association.
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Have you got an extra camera in case the lights go out?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over there --
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: The sound OK? Volume right? All that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Founding Fathers wrote this job into the Constitution. Freedom of the press is in there for a reason.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While I've been having a wonderful time, I gather that both houses of Congress have been having a wonderful time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the enduring principle remains that we exist and we work to keep the eyes of a free press on the government and on the president.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Sometimes you don't like the decisions I make and sometimes I don't like the way you write about the decisions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our role is very much on the ground. I view the association as basically the shop steward for correspondents. You're there to help them do their jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We deal with a lot of logistics. We're the ones working on, who has a seat in the briefing room. Who has a press pool in the motor or the plane.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the great things about our job is being there when history is being made.
OBAMA: The evolution of the presidency has gone hand in hand with the evolution of the White House Press Association and the relationship of the press to politics. The White House correspondents perform a vital service in letting folks know what the White House is all about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you making a mistake in sending arms to Tehran, sir?
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: No, and I'm not taking anymore questions.
CLINTON: I always try to put myself into their position. They had a difficult job to do, and they needed a new story every day. And if I didn't give them one, they would have one anyway, and sometimes it would be one I didn't like, but it was all part of the deal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With every president, the relationship is constantly changing. But there is an unchanging quest for the correspondents' association and it's a simple word.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Access.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Access.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Access.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to continue to press for those doors and windows to remain open, so you can see and see the account of history from an unbiased view.
CLINTON: We're not through this period where there's a great contest between people who believe in the free exchange of ideas and the freedom of the press and the freedom to argue back. We can't go back to a more polarized world where someone can put the hammer down and this is the way it's going to be and you can't say anything differently. If you try to, I'll cut you off or put you in jail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People have to be informed. Or otherwise, they're not going to support their government.
NIXON: What's the matter with these clowns?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's always going to be governments that try to be a little bit more insulate. It's important to push back on that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The correspondents association is a reminder that they also work for the public and they also have a responsibility to the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The press is an institutional part of the White House and it should always be an institutional part. Every government needs a watchdog.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We never win. We never lose. It's just a constant struggle.
BUSH: -- when my press conference ended.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like so many of the struggles inside the Beltway, this one started as a turf battle in 1914 on Capitol Hill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the press conferences in those days were dominated by the violence in Mexico, the Mexican revolution. There were no controls on who attended those press conferences. The standing committee of correspondents in Congress tried to move in on the White House. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They wanted to become the one that would help President Woodrow Wilson.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A select group of journalists was formed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Looking back 100 years and seeing the pictures and hearing the history, it's amazing how things have evolved. The organization was started by a group of white men, not women, not minorities -- a group of white men.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was Franklin Roosevelt who was the first to allow a black man into a presidential press conference.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In February 1944, journalist Harry McAlpin broke down the barriers of inequality, becoming the first African-American White House correspondent. And it's in his honor that the correspondents' association has established the Harry S. McAlpin Jr. Scholarship for young and aspiring journalists.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We also had women members and we had women in the press conference on the beat, but we wouldn't allow them to attend the dinner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The general attitude was that this was a stag event. This was for men only. A little too bawdy for women.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was the sense that women journalists almost didn't belong. They weren't part of the boy's club.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't until three women reporters, including Helen Thomas in 1962, went to John F. Kennedy and said, we'd like you to help us get into this dinner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Kennedy sent a simple message, tell them I'm not attending the dinner next year unless women are allowed to attend. All of a sudden, it changed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did it change?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do nothing but bawdy jokes now.
JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: Three Hillarys. That sounds like President Clinton's worst nightmare.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While 99 percent of the correspondent's job is working the beat, there is one night a year when serious Washington can make fun of itself, the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We started the dinner in the 20s.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've done this before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, it wasn't televised. It didn't have Hollywood celebrities. We did have entertainers. We had animal acts or jugglers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not going to be able to top that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There would be doing a "Gee, I wish I were there" animal impressions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, we have one entertainer. The president of the association picks the entertainer. I was toying with the idea of having a juggler.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doesn't get more exciting than that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what is the key to navigating the icy and sometimes treacherous waters of Washington humor?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to wing it. Wing it. Improvise a lot. Just see what happens.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's basically three models. One is people who do the politics and get it right. That's rare.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anyone I'm excited to roast tonight? Well, if Putin is there, that will be a big deal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People who try to do the politics and get it wrong, that's painful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could say something dirty but I shouldn't.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And people who avoid the politics like the plague.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not a political comedian.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Am I a political guy? Yes. I'm definitely into politics. That's why I work at the E! Network.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washington comedy is clean and self deprecating.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1945, you have Frank Sinatra, Danny Thomas, Jimmy Durante, Fannie Bryce. This year, it's me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you know the president will be there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the president will be there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, and not only that, he's opening for you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's only the place for an entertainer to shine. It's a place where a president can bring down the house, giving as good as he gets.
OBAMA: Known as the prom of Washington, D.C., a term coined by political reporters who clearly never had the chance to go to an actual prom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Presidents will think immediately this is a chance to make fun of the press.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: This goes with the territory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not what you do, you have to go after yourself. You've got to show them you can take it.
CLINTON: It's not easy to do stand up comedy at these dinners. I thought they were fun. I looked forward to it.
Jay Leno is here. Together we give hope to gray haired chunky baby boomers everywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want people insulted. We want people to be teased. God knows Washington can use a little teasing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But don't make fun of the press, because they can't take it. They are thin-skinned and they don't want to hear it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Laughter aside, the first and foremost mission of the correspondents' association dinner is to promote journalism education through the scholarship fund.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your attendance allows us to give back to these students. We appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As this dinner has grown and grown over the years, it's actually generated more revenue for this very important scholarship.
OBAMA: Obviously, the main reason we're there is for the scholarships and to help he's young people. They are remarkable, talented folks, full of energy and the kind of people you want to see going into journalism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to welcome Curtis McCloud (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having something like this scholarship, it gives them hope to say, wow, there is a resource for me. There is something I can go to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The WHCA provided an unforgettable experience for me. It was a tremendous honor and I'm thankful to them for the scholarship and for that experience.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a future in journalism. It's going through a lot of changes. But there's still a need for people to cover the White House and the government.
CLINTON: I hope it will be around for another 100 years. I think the dinner has done more good than people think.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whether it's Twitter or the typewriter, the correspondents' association continues to deliver its message, covering the White House sending out the news in an ever-changing media landscape. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Year in, year out, we've dealt with a lot of changes on this. We have seen the start of radio. We've seen the advent of television and press conferences, first by Eisenhower and by John F. Kennedy. And we have seen the advent of the Internet as a tool in the Clinton years.
CLINTON: The White House had a television system that had been there since President Carter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello? What do you want?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we have seen social media that exploded in the last four or five years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One thing I often like to say is that speed kills, because we are racing faster to get raw information in front of the public.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's created a situation where the reporters are under such stress and pressure from their editors to get it fast, get it first, reporters can't pause, reporters can't wait, they can't digest any more. They can't be as thorough as they used to be.
CLINTON: But from the point of view of the reader, the main thing is, is it accurate?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, we are dealing with multiple time zones, everything is in real-time and we are working faster to produce more. And the question we ask is still the same.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's important to have a hodgepodge of voices of reporters here because it's not all about just that one story. It's about various stories around the world and this nation and that brings together this one group.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope that 100 years from now when we are celebrating the next anniversary of our association, we will have a room at the White House with the association asking the president questions every day and explaining it to people. The dissemination of the news will change, the media will change, but I think the journalism will not change. This is a great win in the world.
OBAMA: What's clear is our democracy doesn't work unless we have a strong fourth estate. If you don't have that interaction, then you don't have a true democracy. Even if I don't always admit it, I appreciate that they're there.
LEMON: All right. That was the video.
What was that? I didn't laugh one time.
LARSON: We get it. You are a journalist, capital "J." Krugman (ph) video?
LEMON: Who was that?
COLLINS: It felt like Ken Burns White House Correspondents' Dinners like I was expecting a civil war letters --
LEMON: Are we off the mark? Weren't you expecting something funny? I don't know.
STEIN: The White House press correspondents congratulate the White House press correspondents. I mean, yes, they're egomaniacs. I mean, I think this is the hidden story, is we are dealing with a bunch of prima donna, egomaniacs who called themselves White House correspondents and are thin-skinned and don't like to be criticized or corrected. But --
COLLINS: That's why you're not there.
LEMON: That's why your not there.
STEIN: Well, that may well be. That may well be.
But, look, when was the last time you saw one of those people subjected to any kind of moral scrutiny? I mean, it's an interesting thing. There is a lot going on in those people's lives that we don't know about.
TORPEY: That's a good point. My sources are telling me, this isn't confirmed. Jeff Goldblum ate his dinner with his bare hands.
LEMON: Oh, really?
TORPEY: Not confirmed.
COLLINS: He could eat my dinner with his bare hands. You all know what I mean.
LEMON: This is crazy.
LARSON: At least this is entertaining.
LEMON: We were looking for the laughs.