No comic, no president—yet the speaker wows White House reporters

The annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner featured a presidential historian rather than having a comedian deliver the keynote. Here are five takeaways for presenters.

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Ron Chernow proved you don’t have to fire off one-liners to entertain a roomful of journalists.

The presidential historian was invited to deliver the keynote address at this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, in part to restore some authority and gravitas, as the event has come under attack from the chief executive.

Previous dinners have featured comedians, many of them late-night hosts such as Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien and Craig Ferguson. The comics have invariably roasted the commander-in-chief.

This year, President Donald Trump ordered his staff to skip the dinner, exacerbating the rift between White House officials and the reporters who cover them.

Chernow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, rose to the occasion, providing these takeaways for speakers:

1. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Chernow faced a big challenge going in: He was speaking to an audience used to hearing comedians deliver one-liners and snark, and he had to entertain them nonetheless.

Chernow quipped at the beginning: “I was surprised when I received the invitation to speak here tonight. I mean, I knew they weren’t approaching me as an international sex symbol.”

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