Trevor Noah was the first comedian to attend the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner in four years. The last one was Michelle Wolf, whose set was so infamous — at least amongst Republicans, her chief target — that the next year they brought in a historian. (Donald Trump, one of the thinnest-skinned people on the planet, never attended the ceremony, at least during his lone term.) Noah, of course, roasted everyone. But he used the climax of his set to get a little serious.
“The media is in a tough position,” Noah said. “Informing the public is harder than ever before. You’re battling conspiracy theories: that the election was stolen by George Soros, that JFK Jr. is still alive, that everyone in this room is a secret pedophile. And that’s just what Clarence Thomas’ wife believes.”
Noah called what we’re living through right now “the golden age of conspiracy theories, whether it’s the right wing believing Trump can still win the 2020 election, or the left believing Biden can still win the 2024 election.” (Biden gave a laugh-and-clap to that one.)
Noah then turned serious. “Now as we sit in this room, people, I hope you all remember what the real purpose of this evening is,” he said. “Yes, it’s fun. Yes, we dress nice. Yes, the people eat, we drink, we have fun. But the reason we’re here is to honor and celebrate the fourth estate, and what you stand for. What you stand for: an additional check and balance that holds power to account and gives voice to those who otherwise wouldn’t have one.”
“Every single one of your is a bastion of democracy. And if you ever begin to doubt your responsibilities, if you ever begin to doubt how meaningful it is, look no further than what’s happening in Ukraine. Look at what’s happening there. Journalists are risking and even losing their lives to show the world what is happening. You realize how amazing it is? In America, you have the right to seek the truth and speak the truth, even if it makes people in power uncomfortable. Even if it makes viewers or readers uncomfortable. You understand how amazing that is?”
He then pointed out that not even Biden escaped his roasting. “I stood here tonight and I made fun of the president of the United States, and I’m going to be fine.” He then addressed Biden directly: “I am going be fine, right?”
Noah called the freedom of the press a “blessing,” saying, “Ask yourself this question: If a Russian, who are losing their livelihood and their freedom for reporting on what their own government is doing, if they had the freedom to write any words, to show any stories, or to ask any question, if they had basically what you have, would they be using it in the same way that you do? Ask yourself that question every day. Because you have one of the most important roles in the world.”
You can watch Noah’s entire set in the video above. His closing remarks come around the 22:30 mark.