Roy Wood Jr.’s Best Jokes at the 2023 White House Correspondents’ Dinner

The Daily Show correspondent takes the stage at the 2023 WHCD. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

If Comedy Central wasn’t convinced comedian Roy Wood Jr. was ready to be named permanent host of The Daily Show after his excellent turn as guest host in early April, there’s no denying it now. On April 29, the current Daily Show correspondent headlined the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington D.C., and in signature fashion, he showed off the comedic gravitas and nuanced perspective he’d bring to the show if called up from the bullpen.

Wood kicked off his address by thanking President Biden (“Dark Brandon,” as he’d rebranded himself moments earlier) before joking that he’d left some of his “classified documents” on the podium. It was a fitting way to kick off an address centered around a theme Wood claimed “unites” us all: scandal. Wood returned to that theme again and again, delivering jokes about Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon’s recent firing from Fox News and CNN, respectively; Justice Clarence Thomas’s bribery; Donald Trump’s early April arrest, and more.

The comedian then trained his sights on the primary attendees of the event — journalists — and discussed the part they play in perpetuating this cycle. “The industry that covers all of these scandals isn’t immune to them itself,” he said. “The issue with good media is that most people can’t afford that. All the essential fair and nuanced reporting is all stuck behind a paywall. People can’t afford rent, people can’t afford food — not healthy food — they can’t afford an education. They damn sure can’t afford to pay for the truth. Say what you want about a conspiracy theory, but at least it’s affordable.”

Near the end of the address, Wood highlighted the importance of protecting journalism by examining the effect it had on his own parents’ lives. His father was a civil-rights journalist and his mother participated in civil-rights protests in the 1960s, and their work taught Wood about the impact and cost of good journalism. It was a compelling ending to a speech that, until that point, had been dense with laughs. Here is a list of some of the best lines from Wood’s address:

• “I’m not finna have Dominion on my ass! I love Dominion. As a matter of fact, let me just say it right now: My favorite voting machine is Dominion voting machines. When I go to the polls, I make sure it is a Dominion machine that I use. If your election needs the truth, put Dominion in your booth! I ain’t finna get sued! There’s three people you don’t want to see in a courtroom. That’s Dominion, Cardi B, or Gwyneth Paltrow.”

• “An overlooked purpose of tonight’s dinner is to award scholarships to students who have shown great achievements in journalism. These brave young souls are the future of the industry, and I’d like to stop right now and congratulate tonight’s top scholarship recipient, Arizona State senior George Santos. George couldn’t be here tonight — he’s auditioning for RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

• “Speaking of drag queens, can we stop with the ‘grooming’ stuff? Can we stop talking about that? Drag queens are not at a school to groom your kids. Stop it. And even if they were, most of them kids are going to get shot at school. It ain’t no problem. [Audience groans.] Don’t groan, pass legislation! Don’t think boos are going to bother me. I’m like Mitch McConnell: I ain’t got no soul.”

• “Paramount Global is considering offers from Byron Allen and Tyler Perry to purchase BET. That’s how bad it is out there. These companies are so broke, they’re giving BET back to Black people — which, by the way, is not what we meant when we said Black people wanted reparations. We meant cash. You can give it to us in those Harriet Tubman twenties.”

• “The untouchable Tucker Carlson is out of a job … To Tucker’s staff, I know what you’re feeling. I work at The Daily Show. I, too, have been blindsided by the sudden departure of the host of a fake news program.”

• “Speaking of assholes, Don Lemon is out of a job. Don Lemon released a statement saying he got fired from CNN, then CNN released a statement saying that they offered Don a meeting. They had to part ways, ‘cause Don Lemon can’t even accurately report a story about Don Lemon. I still think that Don Lemon deserved more, CNN. That ain’t how you fire somebody. It’s messed up. How funny is it that you work in the news then watch on the news that you got fired from the news? Don Lemon is now the most obnoxious guy in the history of CNN. That’s not fair! Even Jeffrey Toobin is looking at Don Lemon like, ‘Oooh, he rub me the wrong way.’”

• “I ultimately understand why CNN did what they did. I get it. It’s about morals. There should be no place on air for someone who speaks with wild disregard and doesn’t consider the blowback to their coworkers or their company. Thankfully, CNN has taken steps in the right direction. They got rid of Don Lemon, and they have now given a show to … Charles Barkley.”

• “Can we just all be honest and just say that the Trump arrest didn’t hit like we thought it was going to hit? We’re so desensitized to scandals now … The Trump arrest was like a pot brownie you ate four hours ago and you’re like, ‘Hmm, do I feel justice? This doesn’t feel like justice. Let me try one of them Georgia arraignment brownies. Maybe that’ll hit.’”

• “The Trump arrest made everybody question what they believe. You thought you leaned one way politically, then Trump got locked up and everybody started waffling. It put Republicans between a rock and a hard place … For years, all y’all have been saying: ‘We gotta get tough on crime!’ Trump got arrested: ‘We meant Black crime!’ Same thing with the liberals, too. Liberals were all confused after Trump got arrested: ‘We gotta abolish prison!’ Trump got arrested: ‘Bring back Rikers!’”

• “As soon as the Trump document story broke, everybody was down at Mar-a-Lago: ‘Reporting live from the documents! We’re gonna find them!’ Then we found out Joe Biden had documents too: ‘Uh, it’s not a big deal! It’s not a big deal. It’s not a big deal. Everybody got documents. Everybody got documents. Mike Pence has some documents. Ooh look, a Chinese spy balloon! Would you look at that?’”

• “The only thing Ron DeSantis has done that I got to give him credit for: This boy has people riled up about things they can’t understand. They don’t know what critical race theory is! Got these people riled up about something they can’t even define, like crypto or NFTs. Ask any Republican that’s anti-CRT — any Republican to try to explain CRT. They sound like a Democrat trying to explain the charges against Trump: ‘It’s bad! They’re everywhere! We’ve gotta stop it. We’ve gotta stop it! We got the files! We got files! We’ll be right back. I’m Rachel Maddow, I have files!’”

• “A billionaire named Harlan Crow was flying Clarence Thomas all over the world on unreported trips like an Instagram model, taking Clarence to the Maldives, and the beaches, and all that. He paid for Clarence Thomas’s momma’s house! … Do you understand how rich you have to be to buy a Supreme Court justice? A Black one, on top of that! There’s only two in stock, and Harlan Crow owns half the inventory. We can all see Clarence Thomas, but he belongs to billionaire Harlan Crow — and that’s what an NFT is.”

• “We should be inspired by the events in France. They rioted when the retirement age went up two years to 64. They rioted because they didn’t want to work until 64! Meanwhile in America, we have an 80-year-old man begging us for four more years of work. Begging! Begging! ‘Let me finish the job!’ That’s not a campaign slogan, that’s a plea!”

• “I think the most insulting scandal to fall to the feet of the Biden administration was placed at the feet of our Madam Vice President — the scandal of ‘What does Kamala do?’ That’s a disrespectful question, because nobody ever asked that question of a vice president until a woman got the job. Nobody asked. I don’t what Mike Pence did! The only thing I know about Mike Pence is that he’s really good at playing hide and seek at the Capitol.”

Roy Wood Jr.’s Best White House Correspondents’ Dinner Jokes