Obama Draws Rave Reviews From 'Today' Cast

Barack Obama's performance at the Washington Correspondent's Dinner drew rave reviews from the Today show cast on Monday, as everyone agreed with Al Roker's assessment that the President was "on fire." While Today co-anchor was impressed by Obama's "fantastic timing" NBC's Norah O'Donnell, in her story filed for Today, praised Obama, even at the expense of fellow NBC employee Jay Leno: "After the President's comedic tour de force Tonight Show host Jay Leno had a hard act to follow."

In the 10:00am hour Kathie Lee Gifford called Obama "brilliant" and Hoda Kotb, also taking a shot at her NBC colleague noted: "Keep in mind Jay Leno was on the stage, as was Obama, and the funniest person in the room was definitely the President."

The following is the full O'Donnell story followed by the Today cast's reaction as they were aired on the May 3 Today show:

MATT LAUER: President Obama showing off his lighter side over the weekend at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Here's NBC's Norah O'Donnell.

NORAH O'DONNELL: It's where Washington meets Hollywood, where the Capital's best known politicians and reporters walk the red carpet with celebrities and pop stars. It's the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, a black tie gala so eagerly anticipated inside the Beltway, it's known as the Oscars on the Potomac. The real star of Saturday's dinner, the President of the United States, who wasted no time showing off his comedic chops, lampooning his Vice President.

BARACK OBAMA: And so I wasn't sure that I should actually come tonight. Biden talked me into it. He said, "Mr. President, this is no ordinary dinner. This is a big [bleep] meal!"

O'DONNELL: Mocking Wall Street.

OBAMA: By the way, all of the jokes here tonight are brought to you by our friends at Goldman Sachs. So you don't have to worry. They make money whether you laugh or not.

O'DONNELL: Tweaking his Republican opponents.

OBAMA: I hear that I'm still pretty big on Twitter, Facebook or, as Sarah Palin calls it, the socialized media.

O'DONNELL: Even taking a jab at the night's keynote speaker.

OBAMA: The only person's whose ratings fell more than mine last year is here tonight. Great to see you, Jay.

O'DONNELL: After the President's comedic tour de force "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno had a hard act to follow.

JAY LENO: You know the President has the most diverse staff in history, they represent every ward of Chicago. And I think that is fantastic, Mr. President. Fantastic. I can see the White House press corps, very excited tonight. This is about as close to a White House press conference they've had in a year. So this is it. So enjoy it while it lasts. Yeah.

O'DONNELL: A night to remember as Washington gets back to work today. For Today, Norah O'Donnell, NBC News, Washington.

MATT LAUER: We were there.

AL ROKER: He was on fire.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Yeah.

LAUER: Small room.

ROKER: Yeah only 3,000 people. Wow.

ANN CURRY: 3,000.

VIEIRA: I know, exactly.

CURRY: That's why you lost your voice this morning, all the shouting.

LAUER: Just trying to talk over all the din in the room. Yeah.

VIEIRA: But if this White House gig doesn't work out he could go on the road, as a comedian, easily.

ROKER: Man!

CURRY: Timing was fantastic.

VIEIRA: Timing is everything.

ROKER: I bet there are a bunch of Republicans who wish he would.

VIEIRA: Exactly.

LAUER: Yeah exactly right.

...

KATHIE LEE GIFFORD: President Obama was brilliant!

HODA KOTB: He was-

GIFFORD: He was the funniest I've ever seen him.

HODA KOTB: There, just keep in mind Jay Leno was on the stage, as was Obama, and the funniest person in the room was definitely the President. Definitely!

GIFFORD: Yeah it was not the best night for old Jay. He's, he's still riding high at his old show now, but last night or Saturday night was not his night.

KOTB: But let's listen I think we have a little bit of Obama. Let's listen to President Obama.

(Begin clip)

BARACK OBAMA: I wasn't sure that I should actually come tonight. Biden talked me into it. He leaned over and he said, "Mr. President, this is no ordinary dinner. This is a big [bleep] meal!...The only person whose ratings fell more than mine last year is here tonight. Great to see you, Jay.

(End clip)

KOTB: It was a fun night.

GIFFORD: It wasn't, it wasn't real mean-spirited at all.

KOTB: No it was, it was light.

GIFFORD: It was really fun, it was really fun. And, and then do we have any sound of Jay? That's it.

KOTB: I think that's, I think that's all we have. No we just...that's all.

GIFFORD: Yeah, yeah. We don't want, yeah you don't want to see that.

KOTB: No. Yeah, you don't. But you know what's interesting. While...

(audible groans and laughter in studio)

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.