WASHINGTON — A comedian has agreed to tell jokes at this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
Now the question is whether President Trump will show up to hear the punch lines.
Michelle Wolf, a stand-up comic and frequent contributor to “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” will be the featured entertainer at the annual gathering on April 28, the association announced on Thursday, taking on one of the most prominent — and perilous — gigs in comedy.
Long a high point of the Washington social calendar, the correspondents’ dinner typically offers journalists and presidents a chance to roast one another on live television in a celebrity-packed ballroom.
But Mr. Trump, not one to encourage comity with the White House press corps, skipped last year’s proceedings, the first president to do so since Ronald Reagan in 1981. (Mr. Reagan, who had recently survived an assassination attempt, called in from his hospital bed.) And the White House said this week that Mr. Trump had not yet made a decision about this year.
Either way, Ms. Wolf, 32, has her work cut out for her.
Washington journalists are a notoriously tough crowd; witness the stony silence that met Stephen Colbert after his blistering 2006 monologue about George W. Bush. The comedian Larry Wilmore, who appeared in 2016, prompted controversy when he used a racial slur in his remarks about Barack Obama.
The coziness of the event — where reporters hobnob with the politicians they cover — can be awkward, too, leading some journalists to stifle their laughter, lest they be caught on camera appearing too gleeful at the president’s expense.
But the dinner can be a proving ground for comics. Hasan Minhaj, last year’s entertainer, received high marks for his balanced performance, coming at the height of tensions between Mr. Trump and the press.
Ms. Wolf, who has also written for “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” recently signed a deal with Netflix to develop a weekly late-night talk show of her own. She gained notice last year for an HBO comedy special, “Nice Lady,” that Jason Zinoman, the comedy critic for The New York Times, praised for its “silly fart jokes tied to meaty social commentaries that spin out into unexpected personal confessions interrupted by nicely crafted one-liners.”
Margaret Talev, a White House reporter for Bloomberg News who is president of the correspondents’ association, said that Ms. Wolf’s “truth-to-power style make her a great friend to the W.H.C.A.”
“Her Pennsylvania roots, stints on Wall Street and in science, and self-made, feminist edge make her the right voice now,” Ms. Talev said in a statement.
If Mr. Trump attends the April dinner, it could create a far more charged dynamic in the room.
The president rarely holds back in his searing attacks on the journalists that cover him, but might he temper his style in a more formal setting? An answer of sorts could come in early March, when the president makes his first appearance at another of Washington’s major roasts: the white-tie Gridiron Club gala.
The Gridiron, organized by an elite club of Washington journalists, is a more genteel version of the correspondents’ dinner, featuring skits and jokes performed by reporters and lawmakers. Outside comics are not invited, and the event is not expected to be televised.
Mr. Trump skipped the event last year — Vice President Pence spoke in his stead — but there is precedent for spotty presidential attendance: Barack Obama did not speak there until his third year in office.
Of course, Mr. Trump’s history with the correspondents’ dinner is more fraught. In 2011, the future president attended the event, only to be brutally mocked by Mr. Obama and the featured entertainer, Mr. Meyers.
Mr. Trump’s displeasure that evening has since been cited as a prime motivator for his subsequent presidential run.