The White House Correspondents’ Association announced Tuesday that comedians Kenan Thompson and Hasan Minhaj will attend the annual dinner on April 25, 2020, with Thompson as host and Minhaj as a “featured entertainer.” (Minhaj hosted in 2017.) The decision for the association to hire the two marks its return to comedy, after historian Ron Chernow took on emcee duties in 2019.
In 2018, the last comedian to host, Michelle Wolf, was thrust into the spotlight after her sharp set earned her wide praise and sparked a non-controversy when a bit about Sarah Sanders being a liar was contorted into an example of body shaming by both liberal and conservative media.
Though the dinner has a long history of hiring comedians, Thompson’s presence at the event is notable and a departure from the three previous comedians to host: Michelle Wolf, Hasan Minhaj, and Larry Wilmore. A veteran of Saturday Night Live, Thompson has a deeper history with the current president than most, having previously shared a stage with Trump when the then-candidate hosted in 2015. The comedian has also previously impersonated the current president in a 2018 skit parodying Empire, which dared to ask the question, “What if Trump was black?” In a show known for its milquetoast political takes, Thompson made a recognizable statement by not joining Kanye West (incidentally) during the end credits of a 2018 episode, as West donned a MAGA hat and delivered an impromptu pro-Trump speech.
Given the WHCA’s invitation of Michelle Wolf and subsequent condemnation of her remarks, hiring Thompson appears to be a calculated move to invite comedy without controversy.
Though the president is unlikely to attend—he’s skipped the last three—the event will be a full-circle moment for SNL, Trump, and the country’s departure from God’s grace. In 2011, when SNL alum Seth Meyers hosted the dinner, then-President Obama’s jabs at Trump are rumored to have inspired him into running for office.
If Thompson is soft on the Trump administration, the WHCA can claim a victory, while its critics' concerns will have further proof that the event is doomed to be a toothless and unfunny endeavor. Conversely, jokes aiming beyond the usual orange skin, funny hair, and the president’s extreme attraction towards his daughter, will likely unify both liberal and conservative pundits in decrying a lack of civility.