Conan O'Brien, an old pro at this thing, is in D.C. preparing for his stint this weekend at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. (Don't call it nerd prom.) And in an interview with Politico, which is way too into this kind of thing, he explains his strategy: Conan doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and he wants to take aim at the correspondents as much as the politicos. To wit:
"The big thing to remember is that it’s the White House Correspondents' Dinner, so you've got to spend your time talking about these correspondents and what they do and the media. That's obviously a rich vein and people can forget and think they’re there to make fun of the president. Well, no. This is the big party for all the correspondents, so I think it's really knowing their world, knowing about them, and talking about them. And the rest of it I'm just going to sing. Any show tune from 'Oklahoma.'"
O'Brien posted a picture to Twitter yesterday, proving himself in the mood to get silly at the event, which has drawn distaste from the likes of Tom Brokaw, who criticized it for being too celebrity driven.
In D.C. to perform at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Practicing my opening "Goofy Sunglasses" bit: bit.ly/15RpxA2— Conan O'Brien (@ConanOBrien) April 25, 2013
The picture, perhaps, might reflect his routine: off-kilter but inoffensive. O'Brien told Politico's Patrick Gavin that he's not planning on overtly antagonizing anyone (unlike some comedic hosts we know):
There’s no way to do that room and not have an ‘Ooooooo …’ every now and then, but my goal is to be able to go up to my [hotel] room and be able to sleep. I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. I want to be funny, and I’m not up there to make anyone incredibly uncomfortable and certainly not the guy who controls drones. That’s going to be in my mind the entire time: This man has a joystick in his lap and he controls drones — and my income tax.
Unlike, say, Bill Clinton, whom O'Brien performed before at the 1995 dinner, President Obama isn't all that easy to make fun of. O'Brien's last hope, he said, is that Obama "throws up on a world leader between now and then." He added a joke that, in the wake of the recent ricin scares in Washington, might have already gone a little too far: "I'm sending the White House a lot of chili that's gone bad in the hopes that it gets past security."
Plus, O'Brien told Gavin, the thing is supposed to be about the correspondents anyway, and not just about mocking the president. So, journalists, watch out. And you're getting off easy by bailing, Brokaw. We'll be right here with live coverage of the all the inanity on Saturday night.