A relaxed President Barack Obama honored artistic legends at the Kennedy Center Honors Sunday, poking fun at their respective reputations in the process.
“There was some hotel rooms trashed and mayhem all around,” Obama said of honorees Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones, recalling Led Zeppelin’s hard-partying days. “So it’s fitting that we’re doing this in a room with windows that are about three inches thick, and with Secret Service all around. So, guys, just settle down.”
Others receiving the nation’s highest award for achievement in the arts included bluesman Buddy Guy, ballet dancer Natalia Makarova, actor Dustin Hoffman, and Obama’s frequent late-night foil, comedian David Letterman.
Introducing Letterman’s body of work, Obama quipped that it’s a little more nerve-wracking to be on the receiving end of a roast. “You’re looking a little stressed,” he said to the comedian.
Buddy Guy, who famously taught Jimi Hendrix guitar licks, was honored for his humility, and getting the president to sing “Sweet Home Chicago” last year. Obama thanked Markova, a dancer who defected from the former Soviet Union to star on Broadway, for courageously sharing her talent.
Of Dustin Hoffman, the president noted that his breakthrough role in The Graduate was meant for Robert Redford. ”Well, Dustin, you’ll be glad to know that this award was not supposed to go to Robert Redford,” Obama said. “He’s already got one.”
Comedian Ray Romano didn’t let Obama get away without any criticism. In an homage to Letterman where he spoke of the host’s perseverance after having his first pilot cancelled, Romano joked about the 2012 presidential campaign.
“If you want to win the World Series, do you quit after losing one game? No!” Romano said. “Do you quit after losing one debate? No, Mr. President!”
In a cutaway to the president, Obama shook his head no.