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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
White House Correspondents' Dinner
Aired May 3, 2014 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOEL MCHALE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' DINNER HOST: To, quote, "That hot chick from 'Dallas Buyers Club'" -- you are in for a very interesting evening.
MCHALE: Richard Sherman has already had an impact on tonight's event. He's intercepted all three of Tim Tebow's attempts to pass the dinner rolls. Oh, and Russell Wilson is also here from my Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Peyton Manning, he wanted to be here tonight, but he can only move four yards at a time.
MCHALE: You're right, he's not here to defend himself.
Legendary actor Robert De Niro is here tonight, everyone.
MCHALE: Now, I don't do a De Niro impression, but I do an impression of Robert De Niro's agent. You ready? Here it is. Ready?
"Ring, ring - he'll do it!"
MCHALE: Mr. De Niro, I was in "Spy Kids 4." so clearly I am beyond reproach. So I will see you on the set of "Spy Kids 5," I'm sure.
Biz Stone, the founder of Twitter, is here. So if any of you congressmen want to cut out the middleman, just show him your penis.
Not now! You nuts?
OK. Those are my warm up jokes.
MCHALE: I'm kidding. I'm kidding. I'm kidding. I want to leave you tonight with a bit of a pep talk.
America has seen her share of challenges. But as my agents told me when I booked an NBC sitcom, hey, things could be worse. Now, have you watched the news? I mean, not CNN, I mean, like, the real news? It's pretty bad in other places. By comparison, America is doing great. I mean, this year after months of heated debate and controversy, we achieved something that will impact the health of millions. We brought back Twinkies.
And we are no longer the fattest country in the world. Now Mexico is. But don't worry, we'll all be again soon as they all come over here.
And what's our biggest concern as Americans? TV show spoilers. In other countries a spoiler consists of hey, I haven't been back to the village yet. So don't tell me who survived the drone strike. No spoilers.
America still has amazing technological innovations; Google Glass has hit the market. Now just by walking down the street we'll know exactly who to punch in the face.
In America we see gluten and peanuts as threats to our kids. In other countries gluten and peanuts are the nicknames of warlords who have child armies. So we're better.
America is doing just fine, guys.
How do I know that? Because we are making a fourth movie about trucks that turn into giant robots.
And why are they making a "Transformers 4?" Because there is still so much story left to tell.
So chin up, everyone, this country is still number one in the all- important categories of cream-filled pastries, face computers and robot trucks. Education, economy and the environment, hey, we'll get them next time.
And here's why America is the best country in the world. A guy like me can stand before the president, the press and Patrick Duffy and tell jokes without severe repercussions and instead of being shipped off to a gulag I'm going to the "Vanity Fair" afterparty. That's right. This is America where everyone can be a Pussy Riot.
This is one of the coolest things that has happened to me ever in my entire life. Thank you, Mr. President; thank you, Ms. Obama and thank you, White House Correspondents' Dinner and thank you, C-SPAN viewer. Good night, everybody. Thank you. All right.
LEMON: So applause, applause, applause, applause, applause. And for those of you who watch the show, Joel McHale.
Do you watch the show?
Have you been on that show? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have not been on the show.
LEMON: Because you look like someone who would be on "The Soup."
OK. That was Joel McHale. There are mixed reviews on social media.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
LEMON: I thought he was freaking hilarious.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was hysterical.
LEMON: Agreed, yes.
So I'm joined now by Michelle Collins, who's a writer and a comedian; Michael Torpey, an actor and writer; Brett Larson, a technology analyst and then Ben Stein is in Los Angeles. Suzanne Malveaux, Nischelle Turner in Washington. John Avlon is there as well. And as well as Van Jones.
OK, around the table here in New York, first to you, Michelle.
MICHELLE COLLINS, WRITER AND COMEDIAN: I thought he was adorable, hilarious, calm, collected, very funny. The writing was great. I thought it was awesome.
LEMON: Mr. Writer?
MICHAEL TORPEY, WRITER AND COMEDIAN: As a writer, best usage of the word "ghoul" I've heard in a long time.
LEMON: Everybody in the room.
TORPEY: Calling them ghouls is just genius. Big fan.
BRETT LARSON, CNN TECH ANALYST: I thought it was hysterical.
LEMON: Brett and I were looking at each other, going, oh. Did he just say that? But that's what this night is supposed to be about, because if you're -- and I know Ben is going to have something different to say. Ben, you did not think it was funny, did you?
BEN STEIN, ACTOR, HUMORIST, ECONOMIST: I thought some of it was funny. I didn't get the joke about Lindsay Graham. I didn't get a lot of the jokes. But then I'm at the uncool kids' table. But I just didn't get why it was funny. I mean I did think a few things were funny. But (INAUDIBLE) was funny. I found a lot of it sharp and painful. And you know what I'm reminded of, years and years ago, a psychiatrist told me, as a great expert on humor and written a great deal about humor said much of what passes for humor is really incitement to suicide.
And I found that --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep it light.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God.
LEMON: So it was -- it was painful but for me it was painful in the way that you want it to be painful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want it to be funny and like pointed.
LEMON: Yes. The Gitmo joke was hilarious; the Paul Ryan thing that he started with, saying, you know, raising your kids on government subsidy and government housing.
STEIN: That was funny. I agree. That was funny.
LEMON: That was funny.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I liked the cigar joke personally.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That did not go well in the crowd.
LEMON: That did not go well in the crowd?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a fan. I was --
STEIN: That was far too dirty. That was too dirty.
LEMON: Well, that was -- the Kardashian joke was --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hysterical. I thought --
STEIN: That was outrageously untrue. That was just so outrageously untrue. It was dirty and it was filthy and it was outrageously untrue. And (INAUDIBLE) --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) about the Kardashians, Ben?
STEIN: (INAUDIBLE) -- I don't watch the show.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brush up on your pornography. It's true.
STEIN: So just outrage. That's just outrageously untrue. Frankly, I love CNN and I watch it a lot. I think it's great. I'm on FOX a lot. I love it. I didn't like the comments about FOX. I thought it was just too mean. It was just too goddamn mean. It was mean.
LEMON: (INAUDIBLE), these are the people who are streaming out. And you can see all their faces.
Let's -- we'll get back to that. But we want to get to the red carpet now.
Can we just show the shot of the folks streaming out because there are some famous faces in there. There were at least before the shot changed. We saw all the folks from "Modern Family" were leaving. We saw -- obviously it's already online now, CNN is gushing over "Scandal," which, you know, we love that.
(INAUDIBLE) folks are there.
I mean, Ben, it's called sarcasm. He was very -- there's what's-her- name, Sofia Vergara -- he made fun of CNN, Vergara. He made fun of CNN. It was biting. It kind of hurt but I laughed my head off.
So Van Jones, what do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you on? I wish you were on.
LEMON: Van Jones, are you there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. Hey.
LEMON: All right. Well, you guys can fix their microphones. We'll get back to them.
Go ahead, Ben Stein. What were you saying?
STEIN: I was going to say, there is humor. Look, I've worked in Hollywood now for almost 40 years. I started out working with Norman Lear. I know a little tiny bit about (INAUDIBLE) what humor is. I thought this was some of the cruelest, nastiest humor I have ever seen. And I'm --
LEMON: All right. But -- but if it makes you laugh. Our panel's heads are going to pop off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just going to say, if you can't make fun of everybody and laugh at it all, then you can't really make fun of anybody.
Like if you -- he --
STEIN: It's not making fun of it. It's not making fun of it. It's not making of it. It's making fun of it in such a particularly vicious way. Look, we've had --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that's Joel McHale. That's Joel McHale's humor. Have you after watched "The Soup?" He hits everybody. And it's mean. Like you said, this is kind of like watching the TMZ --
STEIN: I haven't watched it, but I watch Jimmy Kimmel almost every night and he is never that mean and he is hilariously funny every night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he is.
LEMON: All right. Ben, you and I are in a fight right now. So we're going to have some of the best moments of the speeches tonight. Ben and I are going to continue to fight with the panel as well and we're going to get you to the red carpet. But we have to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: MSNBC is here. They're a little overwhelmed. They've never seen an audience this big before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I usually start these dinners with a few self-deprecating jokes. After my stellar 2013, what could I possibly talk about?
OBAMA: I admit it. Last year was rough. Sheesh.
OBAMA: At one point things got so bad, the 47 percent called Mitt Romney to apologize.
OBAMA: Of course we rolled out healthcare.gov. That could have gone better.
LEMON: I told you there would be a healthcare.gov joke, didn't I? I'm back now and we are going to go over the highlights of the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
With us, Michelle Collins is here on the set with me; Michael Torpey as well. He is a writer an actor. Michelle, of course, is a writer and comedian. Brett Larson, our technology analyst; Mr. Ben Stein is in Los Angeles, actor, humorist, economist, former speech writer for Presidents Bush -- I'm sorry; Presidents ford and Nixon.
And then in Washington, D.C., at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, our very own Nischelle Turner, who's our entertainment correspondent. Also joining us is Suzanne Malveaux, our national correspondent; John Avlon is an analyst here on CNN and Van Jones is the co-host of "CROSSFIRE."
So what did you guys think?
Joel McHale's humor was very biting, I think very funny.
VAN JONES, CNN HOST: Yes, it was funny. But listen, people were -- at first it's like they were getting kicked in the stomach. They didn't know if they would laugh. They probably were looking around each other, is it OK to laugh at this stuff? This was a very different form of humor.
JOHN AVLON, CNN HOST: Yes, look, he threw heat, no question. He was an equal opportunity offender. But the folks were kind of getting into some pearl clutching about whether he was over the line. Got to fundamentally misunderstand humor. Yes, it was edgy but it was great. It was very funny.
JONES: People were unsure at first if they could even laugh at some of the stuff but eventually he won them over.
AVLON: Yes, he did. It was great.
LEMON: OK. So we heard him. I mean, quite honestly, the Chris Christie jokes, I was cringing.
AVLON: Oh, my God. It was --
JONES: It was rough, man.
AVLON: And I was sitting literally like from here to there from Chris Christie.
And you know, he smiled.
LEMON: What was his reaction?
JONES: He smiled and he looked around but that was brutal. The whole room was like oh, no.
AVLON: Yes, it was rough. No question about it. It was a full contact sport tonight.
JONES: Full contact.
AVLON: But you know, that's -- you like some humor, political humor has got to have edge to be real.
JONES: That was real.
If you are Chris Christie you know you're going to get it and you show up anyway. So (INAUDIBLE) Christie's a point for courage.
But that was a body blow. It was awful.
LEMON: Suzanne Malveaux, you have been a White House correspondent and you are a national correspondent now.
That's a tough room, isn't it?
And do you, in a way, kind of want the comedian to hit you if you are in the audience?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Honestly, I was cringing a lot during this. I mean, it's very uncomfortable in the room. Many times you're really not sure how to respond. I was really surprised at how far President Obama went when he talked about healthcare.gov and he said, look, it's control-alt-delete instead of like "Yes, We Can."
And when he took out the former secretary of HHS, Kathleen Sebelius out there, to play in that joke I thought that went really, really far, that she has to excuse herself. And she's, in part, too blame for all this and then he brings her out as part of the comedy routine. That was a bit surprising to me actually.
LEMON: Nischelle Turner, everyone -- there are a lot of celebrities in the room and if you want to know who they are, look around. They're the ones who don't look like ghouls. Ouch to the journalists.
NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, speaking from the entertainment side of things, I kind of lean a little more into what John Avlon was saying, it was really biting but I thought it was really funny.
I was surprise at the Robert De Niro jokes. I thought that one was like Van said, a body blow because you know, you're an actor; he's probably one of the legendary best actors in the business and you stung him and stung him good. So I thought that was a risky move for him.
The only thing I didn't like and I thought he was really funny. And I don't know if something was going on audiovisually or something, it seemed like he was reading every single joke instead of kind of performing a little bit more. So that was a little bit distracting to me, because it's like he had his paper and he saw it and he was reading it. So that was a little off for me.
Go ahead, Michelle.
MICHELLE COLLINS, WRITER: No, I agree with that actually. I kept noticing he had that huge pad in front of him with that long. It was like reading the Torah scroll at my bat mitzvah. I was like what's happening? It was just this big thing.
LEMON: If you go back to the Kimmel speech, though, Kimmel did the same thing. I remember watching it.
But the thing that we have to remember about Joel is that Joel is on the show, "The Soup," and that is prompter, a lot of it I'm sure, and I'm sure he's ad libbing a lot. But I think it's probably he is used to reading his material, not to say he didn't write it. (CROSSTALK)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is like extreme nitpicking many reality shows.
LEMON: Van Jones, I have to ask you something.
LEMON: Don't start your speeches with the -- I know something about the Negro.
JONES: Oh, that was -- hey, you know, Don, this -- what's so interesting, race was much more present this year than any other year of the Obama presidency. But there was a comfort level with it. People were joking and people playing with it.
It was not this we can't talk about race or we have got to be so serious. There were serious moments but you know what, I thought it was amazing how almost everybody was able to find some little humor that they could be comfortable with race.
Did you notice that?
AVLON: Oh, God, yes. No question about it. I mean, Cliven Bundy was a major punchline and a real-time moment. But one of the best jokes also was when the president said that John Boehner had been getting so much heat from his own comments -- conference, so much criticism from conservatives that it shows that orange really is the new black.
LEMON: Oh, my God. That was -- that killed.
Listen, we're going to have more of the best moments from tonight's speech coming up.
And also I wonder if the president was more at ease because, you know, as Michael Torpey says, he's a second termer.
TORPEY: He's got second-term swag.
LEMON: Second-term swag. We'll talk about that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I want to thank the White House Correspondents' Association for hosting us here tonight. I am happy to be here even though I am a little jet lagged from my trip to Malaysia. The lengths we have to go to, to get CNN coverage these days.
OBAMA: I think they're still searching for their table.
LEMON: All right, so, he hit CNN hard. We'll get to the break in just a little bit. But he hit CNN hard. But you know what? I'm not offended as a CNNer. I thought it was funny. That's what's supposed to happen.
TORPEY: Second-term swag. He came out confident. He wasn't scared.
I want to go back to all the people who are saying it's too much here. Because it seems a little hypocritical for me for people who work in the press that are about finding truth to get so upset about the truth. Like these jokes contain a lot of truth in them. And all of a sudden people are like, oh, I can't hear that about myself. It seems like, oh, they really can't handle it. It's not fair.
LEMON: And maybe that's -- oh, there is Chris Christie.
If you take the big picture, guys, there's Chris Christie leaving the room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he looks fine.
LEMON: He laughed at the jokes. And I mean it was -- and actually he has lost weight. Look at that. You can see it in his face.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had that thing.
LEMON: And you could -- the people who -- if you're going to this, you know they're going to slam you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
And if you don't want to be slammed, don't go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would kind of want to be slammed. I would be like acknowledged. If you are making fun of me that means I've popped up on your radar. That's a good thing.
So that's where it --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if it's awkward it's because you were probably doing something bad. Like you were a bad person and now we are all making fun of you for it.
LEMON: So, Ben, we've come up with a nickname for you tonight. It's called Grumpy Ben. Go ahead.
STEIN: It is -- you can come up with any nickname you please.
But the names that he called Christie, the mockery that he inflicted on Christie because of his weight is just unbelievable. It's unbelievably sadistic and mean spirited. I think his joke about Senator Graham was absolutely incredibly mean spirited.
And yes, there were some funny jokes. There were some very, very funny jokes. But overall it was just extremely mean spirited. And look, I think I have been working in comedy longer than anyone on this panel by quite a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is so rude.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is so rude.
STEIN: -- (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. Listen, if this was like PBS Saturday Morning Correspondents' Dinner, I'd say you were right. But you know what they say in the business, Ben, grow a pair, you know what I mean, grow a pair.
STEIN: It is -- look, it isn't, there are incredibly funny comedians for a very, very long time. The viciousness of tonight's attack on Christie was just amazingly --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He ate it up just like everything else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got to say -- I have seen more viciousness from press people against politicians.
LEMON: And the thing is, too, every year, instead of like the correspondents' dinner maybe they should call it the roast, the correspondents' roast. If you have ever seen a Comedy Central roast this reminds me of that without the curse words.
But, Ben, he also hit Donald Trump, like he said that thing on his head, I don't know if it has a digestive system. That was funny, too.
STEIN: I know that. That's not the same as just endlessly just smacking, smacking, smacking Christie. I mean, what's the point of it? Everyone knows Chris Christie is overweight. Everyone knows there's a scandal having to do with the bridge. But to hit him over and over again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is a literal easy target.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's the easiest one target in the room.
STEIN: If they had an easy target over and over and over again, I don't think that shows particular witty comedic genius. To hit an easy target over and over again with schoolyard mockery is not particularly genius.
LEMON: Suzanne Malveaux, help me out here. Give me a good moment from tonight. We're going to wrap it up in a little bit. What did you like most about tonight?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: You know, what I really like is how he is playing Hillary and Mike off of each other. I thought that was really interesting, how he had the comment about the shoe and he loved the shoe and that Hillary had gotten smacked with a shoe recently.
I thought he was really trying to be a little bit provocative (INAUDIBLE) when he talked about Hillary and the Republicans were going to have a hard time going after Hillary in terms of being born in Kenya. Like he was putting it out there for 2016. And she was going to be the one, she was going to be the one that they were going to have to deal with. So I like how he played both of them off each other. I thought that was really very clever.
LEMON: Nischelle, quickly, I don't have much -- I don't have a lot of time.
TURNER: Well, I hope I have a job on Monday. But I thought the CNN jokes were funny. I think we have to laugh at ourselves. I thought the Malaysia, I had to go all the way to Malaysia to get coverage on CNN was pretty darn funny. I thought it was a classic line. I laughed my head off at that.
LEMON: John Avlon?
AVLON: Yes, there was a great video with Joe Biden and Julia Louis- Dreyfus from "The Veep" that was funny as hell and I really do think, you know, both parties got their due tonight. It was an equal opportunity offending night. And it was funny as hell. So...
LEMON: Mr. Jones?
JONES: Yes. Look, nobody's talked about the -- look, Michelle Obama looked amazing. She did something like -- she had like uber bangs. Like they weren't the -- it was -- she was on it tonight.
LEMON: All right. I hope your wife is not watching because she's not going to let you go back to the White House.
So guys, I have just a few seconds left.
I thought it was really funny. I thought the president was funny. I thought Joel was funny. And I know it was -- it may have been biting for a lot of people, but that's what it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's what the event has become. This has become a roast, you said it. And roasts are -- you tell the truth in funny ways. And I think he did a great job. He is up there with Elayne Boosler for me, Elayne Boosler.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we got a few extra funny moments of "Veep," which I'm always -- (CROSSTALK)
LEMON: Here's the thing too. When Republicans are in offense, Democrats probably get the brunt of it. And when Democrats are in office, Republicans probably get the brunt of it. And that's the way of the world. That's how I feel.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's how it works. That's the way the game is played. It always has been.
LEMON: So I want to thank all of my guests tonight, especially Mr. Ben Stein, who is in L.A., who is a little grumpy tonight. But that's OK. We love you, Ben. Thank you very much.
And thank you, Michelle, thank you, Michael, thank you, Brett, everybody in Washington. I appreciate you.
And Robin Leach. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you for watching CNN's coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Good night.