Wanda Sykes will soon get the chance to make fun of President Barack Obama to his face.
The comic actress said Thursday that she has been selected as the entertainer at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association annual dinner in Washington, slated for May 9.
Obama is expected to attend the black-tie affair at the Washington Hilton and to follow in his predecessors’ tradition by putting on a comedy act of his own. The guest list of some 2,000 people will likely include the usual mix of Washington elite, White House press corps and Hollywood celebrities.
“The first thing I did when they asked me to do this gig — I made sure my taxes were paid,” quipped Sykes, taking a dig at the withdrawal of former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle from Obama’s cabinet due to unpaid taxes.
Sykes, who booked the gig this week, said the idea of performing for such a high-profile crowd is “scary but very exciting.” The dinner has tripped up comedians before. Rich Little and Stephen Colbert both provoked criticism of their performances before the crowd.
She said it’s her job to “poke fun and ridicule,” and even a popular figure like Obama isn’t off limits. She already has some ideas about what she could mine for laughs. For example, she noted, Obama can be “a little long-winded. So we can get him on that.”
Sykes, 44, has established a comic identity around her blunt, feisty personality. Last year, the comedian publicly announced she is gay and spoke out against the passage of California’s Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage. Sykes appears on “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” and first made a name on TV with stints on “The Chris Rock Show” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Jennifer Loven of The Associated Press is president of the association and chose Sykes because of her fresh style and engaging stage presence.
Sykes expects fumbles in the Obama administration between now and the correspondents’ dinner.
“I’m not rooting against him at all, because, especially in this economy and everything, we need him to succeed,” she says. “But there’s gonna be some incidents and missteps, like we saw with the whole tax thing.”
At the dinner, the association also presents its journalism awards as well as scholarships to aspiring reporters.
The White House Correspondents’ Association was formed in 1914 as a liaison between the White House press corps and the presidents they cover. Every president since Calvin Coolidge has attended the dinner.