‘No one does self-deprecating better’: Trump tries comedy routine

US president jokes about impeachment, wife and North Korea in Gridiron Dinner speech

President Donald Trump and his senior adviser Jared Kushner, whose limited security access gave him material for a gag. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque

President Donald Trump and his senior adviser Jared Kushner, whose limited security access gave him material for a gag. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque

 

Jared Kushner’s security clearance (or lack of it), Melania’s love for him (or lack of it), and even the president’s hair (or lack of it): nothing was out of bounds on Saturday night as Donald Trump tried his hand at comedy at an annual dinner.

“Nobody does self-deprecating humour better than I do. It’s not even close,” Trump told the Gridiron Dinner, a gathering of political allies, opponents, and the Washington press corps. “I was very excited to receive this invitation and ruin your evening in person. That’s why I accepted.”

Trump skipped last year’s dinner.

The dinner, now in its 133rd year, traced its history to 1885, the year president Grover Cleveland refused to attend. Every president since has come to at least one. “Rest assured, Mr President, this crowd is way bigger than Cleveland’s,” said David Lightman, president of the Gridiron club and foundation and congressional editor for McClatchy News.

After musical sketches about the president, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Trump closed out the evening with a range of one-liners:

On his son-in-law, Jared Kushner: “We were late tonight because Jared could not get through security.”

On attorney general Jeff Sessions: “I offered him a ride over and he recused himself. What are you going to do?”

On vice-president Mike Pence: “I really am proud to call him the apprentice. But lately he’s showing a particularly keen interest in the news these days. He is asking ‘has he been impeached yet?’ I don’t like that.”

On former chief strategist Steve Bannon: “That guy leaked more than the Titanic.”

On the New York Times: “I’m a New York icon. You’re a New York icon. And the only difference is I still own my buildings.”

‘I like chaos’

Appearing to be a good sport at the dinner, he laughed and applauded at times. Trump also drew in wife Melania in a remark about recent White House departures. “So many people have been leaving the White House. It’s invigorating since you want turnover. I like chaos. It really is good,” he said. “Who’s going to be the next to leave? [Trump adviser] Steve Miller or Melania?”

Trump also raised the not-necessarily comedy-gold subject of the nuclear standoff with North Korea, saying: “I won’t rule out direct talks with Kim Jong-un. I just won’t.” He added: “As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that’s his problem, not mine.”

By Gridiron tradition, rebuttals came from one Republican, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and one Democrat, New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Cotton made light of what he called the source of his personality: the common touch of Harvard, the sensitivity of the army, and the personal touch of Dick Cheney. On the Russia investigation, he said, “Everyone knows the Trump campaign couldn’t collude with the RNC in Pennsylvania.” The only senator in his 30s said he was looking for a role model and “the search continues”.

With an eye on the president, Landrieu said: “We’re both overweight and balding. I just have an easier time admitting it.” Noting that Trump had a lonely job, the mayor remarked, “I understand lonely because I’m a Democrat from the South.” The New Orleans official also observed, “No matter how many times we say it, we don’t drain the swamps either.”

The event was attended by at least eight members of Trump’s cabinet, six senators, four House members, and presidential relatives-turned-advisers Ivanka Trump and Kushner, the foundation said in a statement. – Guardian