It was announced this morning that Conan O’Brien will headline the annual orgy of celebrity and Washington incestuousness known as the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. This is the second time that O’Brien will be the event’s main act, and we suspect many will decide to take 29 minutes out of their busy work schedules today to watch, or rewatch, his classic 1995 appearance.
But if you do, be warned: This was eighteen years ago, and many of the jokes reference people and events that viewers under 40 will have trouble understanding (and viewers over 40 may have trouble remembering). To help you, here’s a guide to some of the 1995-iest jokes in O’Brien’s monologue.
“The first announcement is for the Democratic congressmen present: Please refrain from switching parties during the dinner. It’s very confusing to your waiters. I understand Nathan Deal got the same dessert twice.”
Though party-switching is relatively rare these days, Nathan Deal was one of seven Democratic congressmen and senators to switch to the Republican Party in the year after the 1994 midterm elections, in which the GOP won control of the House and Senate.
“There are 2,700 people present [tonight]. Though I understand Michael Huffington wishes to dispute that number. “
Michael Huffington (Arianna’s former husband), a former one-term congressman from California, lost a 1994 Senate race to Dianne Feinstein by 168,000 votes, but held off from conceding for three months while alleging widespread voter fraud.
“Will the person with the Washington license plate number GH733 please see Bob Dornan immediately after the dinner? He hasn’t offended you yet.”
Bob Dornan was a GOP congressman from California and long-shot 1996 presidential candidate known for saying outrageous and offensive things, such as when he accused Bill Clinton of “giving aid and comfort to the enemy” during Vietnam and when he outed a colleague on the floor of the House.
“When I got the invitation, I was thrilled that I’d be speaking in the same room as the most powerful man in the country. But then I heard Judge Ito canceled.”
Judge Lance Ito oversaw the first O.J. Simpson trial. You probably knew that — just making sure.
“I remember I was really excited to get my own talk show, but then I found out that Roger Ailes had one. Come on, folks, what’s next, cooking with Ira Magaziner? 6,000 ingredient veal piccata. Tuna casserole made difficult. It’s a great show, check it out.”
Magaziner, an adviser to President Clinton, played a lead role in shaping the White House’s failed 1993 health-care-reform proposal, which was criticized for being overly complex.
“It occurred to me that I was walking the same streets as Jefferson. Madison. Lincoln. Bono. I’m not over it yet.”
Sonny Bono (of Sonny and Cher) served as a congressman from California for three years, from 1995 until his death in 1998.
“I went to the Jefferson Memorial and I was very inspired, because carved on the beautiful marble of the walls of the Jefferson memorial are some really inspiring sayings. Listen to this: [Reads two inspiring quotations.] And then way down at the bottom, carved in marble, it says, “P.S.: If there’s ever a movie about me, please don’t cast Nick Nolte.”
Nick Nolte portrayed Jefferson in the 1995 film Jefferson in Paris. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers wrote that Nolte “seems to think that playing an introspective man means impersonating a wax dummy.”