Monday, May 01, 2006
Bush times 2
WASHINGTON — Not one, but two George Bushes showed up on Saturday night at the White House Correspondents'. Association annual dinner.
Guests in the packed Washington Hilton Hotel ballroom were definitely seeing double as the president poked fun of himself by inviting Bush impersonator Steve Bridges to be his alter-ego in a comedy speech that had the crowd of 2,600 journalists, Hollywood stars and politicos howling with laughter.
Bridges, made up to look just like Bush and standing at a podium placed right next to his, kicked off the bit by sounding just like the president — as the real Bush listened: "Here I am at another one of these dang press dinners. Could be home asleep, little Barney curled up at my feet. Nooo. I gotta pretend I like being here. Being here really ticks me off. The way they try to embarrass me by not editing what I say. Well, let's get things going so I can get to bed."
Real president: "I'm absolutely delighted to be here. As is Laura.
Fake president: "She's hot. Muy caliente."
Real president: "As you know, I always look forward to these dinners."
Fake president: "It's just a bunch of media types, Hollywood liberals, democrats like (Sen.) Joe Biden. How come I can't have dinner with the 36% of the people who like me? The only thing missing is Hillary Clinton sitting in the front row rolling her eyes."
And later, the fake president joked about Vice President Cheney and the February hunting incident in which he shot a friend, saying:
"You reporters would go nuts if you knew the true story. He was drunk as a skunk. One beer. Lite beer. People were jumping and diving for cover. I wish I could have been there."
Cheney was not at the dinner.
At the end, Bush introduced Bridges, joking, "Steve did all my debates with Senator (John) Kerry."
He added, "As most of my predecessors have known, it's really important to be able to laugh in this job. I thank you for giving us the chance to laugh tonight."
Then Colbert, host of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, kept everyone laughing, poking fun at all sorts of topics, but with an overall theme of Bush.
"Wow. George W. Bush. To be this close to the man. I feel as if I'm dreaming. Somebody pinch me. You know what? I'm a pretty sound sleeper. That may not be enough. Somebody shoot me in the face."
Colbert's humor was so satirical and silly that left some people bewildered and others tearing up with laughter.
In a sincere sounding voice, he said, "It is my privilege to celebrate this president. Because we're not so different, he and I. We both get it. Guys like us, we're not some brainiacs on the nerd patrol. We go straight from the gut. Right, sir? That's where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Did you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than in your head? Now I know somebody will say I did look it up and that's not true. That's because you looked it up in a book. Next time look it up in your gut. My gut tells me that's how our nervous system works."
He mentions his various beliefs, including, "I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq. Ladies and gentlemen, believe in yogurt. I refuse to believe it's not butter. I believe in this president. I know there are some polls out there that say this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in reality. Reality, that's a well known liberal bias."
Near the end of his speech, Colbert chided the press.
"Here's how it works: the president makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions and you people in the press type them down. Make, announce, type. Just put them through a spell check and go home!"
And, he said, "What incentive do these people have to answer your questions, after all? Nothing satisfies you. Everyone asks for personnel changes, so the White House has personnel changes and everybody's like, oh, they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. First of all, that's a horrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg."
He joked about new White House press secretary, saying, "Tony Snow – Secret Service name: Snow Job" and said he had wanted to audition for the job. He then showed a clip in which he fielded questions by the press corps, only to wind up running from the building chased by veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas.
At the Bloomberg News post-show party, with guests including Desperate Housewives star James Denton, ER's Maura Tierney, Terence Howard, Ron Silver and others, Colbert was almost the last person to arrive. He seemed pleased with his performance.
"I had a great time. The president killed. He's a tough act to follow — at all times. It'll be a tough for whoever comes in 2008, too."
Colbert said the president seemed to get a kick out of the comedy.
"He was very nice. He was like, 'Good job, good job.' "
American Idol contestant Ace Young thought the night was "outstanding." The young crooner grinned non-stop as he worked the press line and the party. "To see people in Congress, to see the president doing his skit, actors, everybody just getting along with mutual respect. It's awesome."
Young said he had been off of Idol for a little over a week and has had just one day off. "I've had so many wonderful opportunities already come out of this as far as people who are interested in me. It's going to be a good year." He couldn't be more specific, saying only, "A lot's on the way."
Jeopardy's Alex Trebek, a guest of CNN, seemed to be enjoying the night: "I thought the two presidents bit was fantastic, a marvelous bit. I asked Wolf Blitzer – because he has attended about 20 of these – whether all the presidents have such a good sense of humor about poking fun of themselves, which I think George Bush does. It's a great quality."
Blitzer thought Colbert was "very funny. I thought it was great. He was a little on the edge."
Actor and rapper Chris "Ludacris" Bridges was impressed with the president. "I didn't even know he could be that funny."
Isaiah Washington, who plays Dr. Burke on Grey's Anatomy, thought Bush and Colbert "hit a home run."
Finding a relatively quiet spot away from the thumping music in the jam-packed party, Washington said of Colbert: "The politics got really intense. The truth was very apparent but very humorous, very pointed. I had a great time watching him. I had no idea who the hell Stephen Colbert was. I work 18, 19 hours a day, so I don't get a chance to watch a lot of leisurely television, but I'm a fan now."
Washington said, "It's a tough crowd. Worse than the Oscars. This is serious business."
However, he said his fellow partygoers didn't want to talk politics with him. "No, they're too busy wanting to know what's going to happen on the next episode. How bipartisan is that they're not talking about racism or nuclear proliferation this night."
The partying all started with cocktail receptions thrown by each news outlet.
Kelly Carlson, who plays Kimber on FX's edgy plastic surgery drama, Nip/Tuck, made her first trip to Washington. "I'm surprised at how well Nip/Tuck has been received. Everybody's been really polite."
Polite, yes. Politics, no. "I'm not here to get into politics," she said.
Everybody Loves Raymond star Doris Roberts, sitting in a corner because her feet were already hurting described the scene as "chaotic." And as for whether she's a President Bush fan? "I can't get into that."
Early party-goers buzzed about George Clooney, in town for Sunday's Darfur protest rally, but invited by Newsweek to come to the festivities. Said CSI: New York star Melina Kanakaredes. "I understand there are three Georges here tonight. I've met two of them — George Clooney and George Stephanopoulos.