- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2009

Wanda Sykes’ comedic routine at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner Saturday night opened to mixed and in some cases decidedly poor reviews among Washington insiders and the general public.

As the entertainer of the evening, Ms. Sykes took shots at high-profile conservative figures, most notably radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

“Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails… . He just wants the country to fail. To me, that’s treason. He’s not saying anything different than what Osama bin Laden is saying. You might want to look into this, sir, because I think Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker. But he was just so strung out on OxyContin, he missed his flight… . Rush Limbaugh, ‘I hope the country fails,’ I hope his kidneys fail, how about that? He needs a good waterboarding, that’s what he needs,” Ms. Sykes joked.

Ms. Sykes also made a personal jab at Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose daughter Bristol recently became an unwed teenage mother.

“I know Governor Palin… . She’s not here tonight. She pulled out at the last minute. Somebody should tell her that’s not really how you practice abstinence.”

Reactions to Ms. Sykes’ comments were divided among members of the chattering classes in Washington.

At the Vanity Fair-Bloomberg party at the French Embassy, writer Christopher Hitchens told actor Richard Belzer that Ms. Sykes had broken with the traditional spirit of the annual event with her monologue, which affectionately tweaked the incumbent president and administration while reserving its heavy fire for former President George W. Bush and his defeated conservative allies.

Asked his professional opinion of the Limbaugh jokes, Mr. Belzer declined to be pinned down, citing the principle of comedic anarchy: “There are no laws in comedy.”

Ms. Sykes’ performance was the hot topic at the Sunday brunch hosted by John McLaughlin of the “McLaughlin Group.”

“In brief, I loved it,” liberal talk show host Bill Press told The Washington Times.

“It was edgy, but she knew her audience and played to them beautifully. Rush Limbaugh is an easy target, and I don’t think many were offended by it,” he said, referring to the large number of Hollywood industry insiders, who tend to have left-leaning political persuasions.

“I have been to 10 or 12 of these dinners, and I think this was one of the best.”

Conservative author and commentator Patrick J. Buchanan said Ms. Sykes’ routine was too shrill for his liking and the controversy surrounding her remarks may have eclipsed President Obama’s performance, which Mr. Buchanan described as “terrific.”

Even some liberals seemed to be divided on how they rated Ms. Sykes.

Writer and producer Lawrence O’Donnell said Ms. Sykes performance was “not funny” and was distasteful, “standard and uninspired.”

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