Pop Culture

Stephen Colbert skewers politicians, religious leaders at fancy-dress fundraiser

No one is safe when Stephen Colbert takes the microphone, a truism proved again Thursday night when the "Colbert Report" host gave the keynote speech at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial dinner, an annual fundraiser for the Catholic Church.

"Everyone looks so lovely tonight. It's like we all showed up at the same Halloween party dressed as the Monopoly guy," he said, glancing around the room at the white-tie crowd at New York's Waldof-Astoria. "And that's kind of fitting, because the Wall Street guys evidently have a 'Get Out of Jail Free' card."

"I have great respect for Cardinal Dolan, though I do have to say, sir, it is not easy when you are wearing that outfit," he told the churchman sitting nearby. "In that cape and red sash, you look like a matador who's really let himself go."

As the New York Times reported, the dinner cost $1,500 a plate, and is considered a typical stop for presidential candidates and world leaders. It's a combination of roast and fancy dress, and Colbert proved to be an ideal speaker, poking fun at religious leaders and local politicians alike, including New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly ("Are you here alone, or did you bring the whole biker gang?" he asked, referring to a recent story in which an undercover New York policeman was involved in an attack on a driver.)

After a clip from the event showed on TODAY Friday, Matt Lauer noted, "That's the tone of that dinner every single year."

Organizers said the dinner, named after the four-time governor of New York who ran for president in 1928, raised around $3 million.