WASHINGTON — The White House Correspondents’ Association has tapped “Daily Show” comedian and Davis native Hasan Minhaj to perform at its ballyhooed annual dinner.
President Trump won’t be there, but hundreds of Washington journalists will be.
Minhaj, 31, will be the evening’s entertainer — a tightrope that comedians like Jimmy Kimmel, Cecily Strong, Seth Meyers and Stephen Colbert have tried to walk before.
Minhaj is not as well-known as those comedians were when they performed, indicating that the correspondents’ association may have had trouble booking a huge star this year.
On the other hand, Minhaj has a chance to raise his profile at the April 29 event.
Former Comedy Central host Larry Wilmore received mixed reviews after the dinner last year. He said later that he knew he “lost the room early.”
It’s a unique room for a comedian, normally packed with reporters, celebrities and administration officials. But this year’s WHCA dinner will be very different.
In keeping with his anti-media messaging, Trump announced in February that he would skip the dinner. Administration officials were instructed to turn down invites, too, in “solidarity” with the president.
This means there will be no public roasting of the president on live TV, a big change from past years.
There are also far fewer Hollywood types interested in attending the dinner and a weekend’s worth of parties this year.
But the dinner is still on.
In a statement Tuesday, Minhaj said, “It is a tremendous honor to be a part of such a historic event even though the president has chosen not to attend this year. SAD! Now more than ever, it is vital that we honor the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.”
The association usually selects an entertainer several months before the springtime event, but this year was much more fraught.
“I was not looking for somebody who was going to roast the president in absentia. That’s not fair, and that’s not the message that we want to get across,” Jeff Mason, the current president of the association, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday. “I was looking for somebody who is funny and who is entertaining, because I want the dinner to be entertaining, but who can also speak to the message that the whole dinner is going to speak to … the importance of a free press.”
Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward will also speak about the First Amendment.
Minhaj has some Washington experience — he performed at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner last year.
Minhaj has been a correspondent on “The Daily Show” for two and a half years. He wrote and performed an off-Broadway show titled “Homecoming King.” Netflix will premiere a version of the one-man show this spring, which was taped at the Mondavi Center in January.