U.S. President Barack Obama says "Obama out!" at the White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner in Washington, U.S., April 30, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas(reuters_tickers)
By Megan Cassella
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will add "comedian" to his resume for a final time on Saturday as he aims to take down the house in his last appearance at the annual White House correspondents' dinner, a night of playful ribbing of both politicians and the news media.
The black-tie event, which Obama has previously joked is "a night when Washington celebrates itself," brings together journalists and media moguls with Hollywood stars and power brokers from Capitol Hill and beyond.
White House hopeful Bernie Sanders, Vice President Joe Biden and International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde were among the politicos mingling with celebrities, including actress Emma Watson of "Harry Potter" fame and singer Gladys Knight.
For Obama, who was scheduled to speak around 10:20 p.m. ET(3.30 a.m. BST), it was his final correspondents' dinner as a sitting president. Comedian Larry Wilmore, who hosts a show on the cable outlet Comedy Central, will take to the podium after the president's remarks.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Friday not to rule out surprises from Obama, who has polished his comedic timing over seven prior dinner appearances.
"I know that the president will certainly poke a little fun at himself," Earnest said, adding that he thought some "good-natured ribbing of his friends will occur as well."
In previous years, Obama has taken on Washington gridlock, political rivals and presidential hopefuls with usually light-hearted, but sometimes pointed, jokes.
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who did not attend, could nevertheless once again face the president's barbs, as he did in 2011 when he was weighing a White House bid.
At that dinner, which he did attend, Obama skewered him for questioning whether the president was U.S.-born. Obama then speculated about the changes the boisterous billionaire would bring to the White House, including bikini-clad women in the front fountain and gold columns by the entryway.
Wilmore said he plans to talk about the presidential election and Obama's legacy. "I'll definitely bring up race," Wilmore, who is African-American, told cable network C-SPAN. "That's going to be an issue in a lot of different ways."
The dinner, a long-standing tradition, has morphed from a relatively low-key gathering of journalists and their sources into a glamorous red-carpet affair. It has drawn criticism from some who feel that partying with sources is not conducive to hard-hitting journalism.
Other invitees this year included singer Aretha Franklin, actor Morgan Freeman and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller of the Denver Broncos.
(Reporting by Megan Cassella; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Mary Milliken and Marguerita Choy)