Larry Wilmore thought he was telling jokes. Just about everyone else at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, it seems, thought differently.
On Saturday night, "The Nightly Show" host made fun of Brian Williams, Ted Cruz and Barack Obama, among many others. His audience, for the most part, was stone-faced.
"I really viewed this as a roast," Wilmore said on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. "I had nothing against anybody in that room, but this is the time when you get to poke at people, pull down that wall and have some fun."
Wilmore also discussed why he closed the roast by referring to the president as "my n—a," a controversial show of African-American solidarity that Wilmore says he was still on the fence about mid-speech.
"You got to see how we interact when we’re not there. This is how we do it. And this is a word that has been used against black people for so long," he said. "I was called a n—er several times as a child. I’ve heard that word. To defuse that and to use it in a way of camaraderie, and to take the power out of it in that moment is something that meant a lot to me personally."
The annual White House event is known to be "one of the toughest rooms" in comedy, Wilmore said, and it lived up to that reputation. The audience "ooh"-ed at jokes at the expense of CNN anchors Don Lemon and Wolf Blitzer, among many others.
Some of his targets, Wilmore said, seemed to get it. "Don Lemon was very nice," Wilmore said. "He knew it was a roast. He took it in the spirit that it was. But I think some others didn’t." Here’s a photo of Lemon and Wilmore playing nicely after the event:
Blitzer was another story. In retrospect, Wilmore says, his jokes about Blitzer and CNN lost him the room, early on.
"There was so much resistance," Wilmore said. "And I thought, ‘Oh, man.’ As soon as it came out of my mouth, I go, ‘Uh-oh. … This approach right here, the approach of this joke, is not what this room is going to like tonight. But I got a whole script in front of me that’s full of that.'"
On the new podcast, he also discussed this week’s biggest political story: The exit of Ted Cruz from the 2016 presidential race, clearing the way for Donald Trump to become the Republican nominee. He predicted Republicans would quickly fall in line behind Trump now that he will likely be attacking Hillary Clinton rather than members of their own party.
"Oh God, I’m going to miss Ted Cruz jokes," Wilmore added.
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.