Kenan Thompson & Hasan Minhaj Will Host Next White House Correspondents' Dinner After a Year with No Comedian
The White House Correspondents’ Association announced the news in a statement on Tuesday.
“Kenan and Hasan are two of the most engaged and engaging entertainers in America. I’m thrilled they’ll help us celebrate the role of a free press in our democracy,” said Jonathan Karl, the chief White House correspondent for ABC News and president of the WHCA. “We’re looking forward to a lively evening honoring the most important political journalism of the past year.”
Thompson, 41, who is longest-tenured SNL cast member, will serve as the evening’s host. Minhaj, who hosts Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, will be returning as the “featured entertainer.”
The Daily Show alum, 34, headlined the dinner in 2017.
This year’s lineup marks a return for comedy at the annual event, where government officials and political journalists have historically intermingled with the president gamely in attendance at the head table.
Last year’s dinner opted not to invite a comedian to emcee, instead choosing Ron Chernow, a historian and Alexander Hamilton biographer, to make remarks.
Chernow gave a sobering speech on the importance of the media, saying, “The press is a powerful weapon that must always be fired with reluctance and aimed with precision.”
“We’ve seen past administrations threaten the press directly, whether it be Lincoln shutting down disloyal papers during the Civil War, or Woodrow Wilson stifling dissent with the Espionage Act in World War I,” Chernow said last year. “But what is happening today is perhaps even more insidious — a relentless campaign against the very credibility of the news media. Even the smartest courtroom lawyers can’t defend the press against such vague and sweeping attacks. You folks can only preserve that hard-won credibility in one way — with solid, fair-minded, accurate, and energetic reporting.”
The Washington Post noted at the time that this was only the third time a comedian was not featured as the speaker for the dinner, which dates back to 1921. The other two exceptions were Aretha Franklin in 1999 and Ray Charles in 2003.
The change came after Michelle Wolf’s controversial set at the 2018 dinner in which she skewered Sarah Huckabee Sanders, then the White House spokeswoman, among other targets.
Karl told The New York Times that the WHCA welcomed some comedic relief this year.
“The dinner has a serious message, but we also believe it is as important as ever to be able to laugh — at ourselves, as well as at the people we cover,” Karl told the paper. “I’d argue that humor is more important now than ever.”
Trump has been boycotting the dinner since he took office, and it seems unlikely that he will attend this year’s event, which is scheduled for April 25. Last year, he also forbade his officials from attending, though many had already been invited by various press outlets (as is customary).
Trump is also the first president to ever skip the event, save Ronald Reagan, who had to dial in from his hospital bed after his 1981 assassination attempt, according to NPR.