Joke’s Over: WH Correspondents Dinner Will Feature Historian Ron Chernow

November 19, 2018 10:18 a.m.

Departing with years of tradition, this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner will feature a historian, Ron Chernow, in place of a comedian. In years past, with a few exceptions, comedians from Stephen Colbert to Richard Pryor have performed for members of the White House Correspondents’ Association and their guests. Michelle Wolf performed most recently. “While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won’t be dry,” Chernow said in a press release from the association.

Read the release in full below:

The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) is pleased to announce that Ron Chernow, one of the most eminent biographers of American presidents and statesmen, will be the featured speaker at its annual dinner on Saturday, April 27, 2019.

“I’m delighted that Ron will share his lively, deeply researched perspectives on American politics and history at the 2019 White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” said Olivier Knox, Chief Washington Correspondent for SiriusXM and president of the WHCA. “As we celebrate the importance of a free and independent news media to the health of the republic, I look forward to hearing Ron place this unusual moment in the context of American history.”

“The White House Correspondents’ Association has asked me to make the case for the First Amendment and I am happy to oblige,” Chernow said. “Freedom of the press is always a timely subject and this seems like the perfect moment to go back to basics. My major worry these days is that we Americans will forget who we are as a people and historians should serve as our chief custodians in preserving that rich storehouse of memory. While I have never been mistaken for a stand-up comedian, I promise that my history lesson won’t be dry.”

After widely acclaimed biographies of business tycoons J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller — the Morgan book won the National Book Award for Nonfiction — Chernow turned to the Founding Fathers and American presidents.

His biography of Alexander Hamilton in 2004 was the first recipient of the George Washington Book Prize for the year’s best book about the founding era. Chernow served as historical consultant as playwright and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda turned that book into a Broadway phenomenon. The two jointly received the History Makers Award of the New York Historical Society for their work.

His masterful biography of the nation’s first president, Washington: A Life, was published to broad acclaim in 2010, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography. “The best, most comprehensive, and most balanced single-volume biography of Washington ever written,” said Gordon Wood in The New York Review of Books. Chernow was a recipient of the 2015 National Humanities Medal, conferred at the White House.

His latest book, Grant, on the 18th president, was published in 2017 and spent four months on the bestseller list. The New York Times named it one of the ten best books of the year. The Lincoln Journal Star of Nebraska said the book “cements Chernow’s reputation as America’s preeminent historic biographer.” A movie is planned, directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, with Chernow as the historical adviser.

The author has received eight honorary doctorates. And, he has been featured three times in the New York Times crossword puzzle and once on Jeopardy.

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