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Mr. O’Donnell said his favorite comedic act was Mr. Bush’s 2001 performance at his first White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. “He was self-deprecating. That’s what the writers should go for. I don’t think Wanda’s writers did a very good job.”

Eleanor Clift of Newsweek and “The McLaughlin Group” said, “Overall it was fun, but during a few moments, I think she went over the top.”

Actress Kerry Washington said she sympathized with Ms. Sykes because “comedy is the hardest kind of performance to do.”

Dan Glickman, chairman and chief executive of the Motion Picture Association of America, said Ms. Sykes’ performance was received differently among people inside and outside the Beltway.

“I think she took it to the edge, but not over the edge. I was sitting at a table with people from outside Washington, and they all thought it was terrific.”

The divided interpretation continued on the Web as some comments on blogs and Twitter took a harsh tone.

“Ms. Sykes, what a despicable character you are! Perhaps the one who should have pulled out was your father,” one blogger wrote on the Huffington Post.

Another commentator on Twitter wrote: “Wanda Sykes rocked! She boldly called a spade a spade (where spade equals unpatriotic druggie).”

In the end, some were just satisfied with a few laughs, regardless at whose expense.

“I’m just glad she didn’t bomb, because we’ve had a few of those at these dinners,” said Debbie Dingell, wife of Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat.

Daniel Wattenberg contributed to this report.