By Jamie Klatell - 04/29/12 03:50 AM EDT
The jokes covered familiar topics: The Republican primary, super-PACs, Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden seeks to reassure Turkey over alleged coup plotter US, Turkey launch offensive in northern Syria against ISIS The ties that bind MORE, the GSA scandal and even the president's admission that he ate dog as a boy.
What was different Saturday night was the joke teller.
Without Donald TrumpDonald TrumpClinton buries Trump in negative ads Hardliners shrug off Trump’s softer tone on immigration Ramos call for media bias against Trump unethical, compromising MORE in attendance to be the butt of most of Obama's jokes — as he was last year — the president laid into a wide range of targets with his 2012 speech.
Obama did manage to work in a reference to the real estate mogul and one-time GOP presidential hopeful.
"We gather during a historic anniversary,” he said. “Last year at this time, in fact on this very weekend, we finally delivered justice to one of the world’s most notorious individuals." But, what should have been a reference to the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, which was in its final stages one year ago, ended with a picture of The Donald's trademark scowl.
Obama moved on from there, spraying shots at everyone, including himself and those who came to see him.
Mocking his own troubles with live microphones, the president's voice drifted in from off stage with an opening question. "I'm the president of the United States and I'm opening for Jimmy Kimmel?" Obama asked in a supposedly private conversation. "That's it, next year we send Biden. Nah, you're right too risky."
His jokes' reception, like their aim, was a bit scattered. Obama drew the biggest laughs when he was taking shots at himself or other politicians.
He pointed out that his onetime rival in the Democratic presidential primary was now secretary of State and one of the most popular Democrats in the nation.
"Four years ago I was locked in a brutal primary battle with Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonClinton buries Trump in negative ads Hardliners shrug off Trump’s softer tone on immigration Ramos call for media bias against Trump unethical, compromising MORE," Obama said. "Four years later she won't stop drunk-texting me from Cartagena."
He took also took aim at the legislative branch.
"I want to thank all those members of Congress who took a break from their exhausting schedule of not passing any laws to be here tonight," he joked.
He even worked Jimmy Kimmel, the professional entertainer for the night, into the act.
"Jimmy got his start years ago on 'The Man Show,'" Obama said. "In Washington, that’s what we call a congressional hearing on contraception."
The president largely shied away from his likely opponent in the general election, but he did get in a few cracks about Mitt Romney, who did not attend the dinner.
"It’s lovely to be here in the vast, magnificent Hilton ballroom," Obama said of the opulent setting, "or what Mitt Romney would call a little fixer upper."
He also compared the dinner's trappings to another extravagance in the news.
"I'm just glad to learn that this wasn't a GSA conference," he said. "Unbelievable, even the mind reader didn't know what they were thinking."
The GSA spending scandal was just one liability which Obama tried to turn into a punch line.
As Romney has often critiqued the president's affinity for the Harvard faculty lounge, Obama noted that the former Massachusetts governor and he both had Harvard degrees. "I have one and he has two," he said. "What a snob."
Obama also brought up a theme that has hounded him recently.
In retaliation for Democrats harping on the old story of Romney tying the family dog to the roof of the car, many conservatives have pointed out that Obama ate dog when he was a boy in Indonesia -- an admission he wrote in his memoirs years ago. The president tied the dog issue into jokes about a few other popular topics.
In reference to Sarah Palin: "What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? A pit bull is delicious."
About politics being a rough game: "My step father always told me it's a boy eat dog world out there."
On the rise of super-PACs: The president came equipped with his own mock super-PAC ad that promised "America's dogs cannot afford four more years of Obama; that is 28 years for them."
Obama also took on the oldest thorn in his side: his birthplace. Shortly before last year's correspondents dinner, the White House released the president's long-form birth certificate in an effort to quell questions about where he was born. His theme music for last year's speech was "I am a real American."
This year he was a bit more subtle as he "reintroduced" himself for the reelection campaign.
"My name is Barack ObamaBarack ObamaActing Democratic Party chief: Trump’s ‘delusional’ on blacks Five takeaways from Clinton, Trump finance reports Trump brings mothers of children killed by undocumented immigrants on stage MORE. My mother was born in Kansas, my father was born in Kenya, and I was born, of course, in Hawaii," he said, pausing and turning to the camera for a theatrical wink.
The president closed with one last barbed reference about his own administration.
"I had a lot more material prepared," he said, "but I have to get the Secret Service home in time for their new curfew."
Obama took his seat and was met with a series of jabs from Kimmel.
"Mr. President, remember when the country rallied around you in hopes of a better tomorrow," asked Kimmel. "That was hilarious."