Islamic State Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is used to killing it. This time, however, the slaying took place on the stage as al-Baghdadi made his comedy debut, headlining the first Caliphate Correspondents’ Dinner in nearly 100 years.
“Now I hope you enjoy my jokes this evening, but please, let’s make sure nobody laughs their head off. We save that little gift for the Infidels.” Baghdadi quipped. “Wow, looks like we have some crowd tonight. President Obama couldn’t make it, but there must be someone from his administration here because I saw a whole bunch of American Humvees in the parking lot.”
Al-Baghdadi took light-hearted jabs at political friends and foes alike but saved some of his best lines for the media.
“I see we’ve got some members of the press here today, or as I like to call them, my recruiters,” al-Baghdadi said, looking towards the media table. “Now some of you have been critical of me in the past but I still want to make sure you get home safely so I’ve arranged for your transportation back to the hotel. When you leave, just look for the unmarked van with no windows.”
After a brief pause for laughter he added, “No one here has any chloroform allergies, right?”
Iraqi President Fuad Masum, whose army recently suffered a stunning defeat against ISIS in the city of Ramadi, was the butt of several of Baghdadi’s barbs.
“Good to see Fuad is here, or as I call him, the man who brought America and Iran together in collective disappointment,” al-Baghdadi said as Masum offered a good-natured smile. “The Iraqi army was here, but they fled when they saw one of our fighters pick up a knife to butter his roll. If the Islamic State ever wants to start a track team, we know where to look.”
Mohammed Emwazi, a British rapper nicknamed Jihadi John who joined ISIS and carried out a number of beheadings, was another of Baghdadi’s favorite targets.
“Johnny, I’m not sure if I want you marrying my five-year-old daughter since people generally die young in your line of work. I don’t mean jihad, I’m talking about rappers,” al-Baghdadi said. After Emwazi showed little reaction, Baghdadi joked, “What’s the matter, no laugh? J.J., you look like a statue, and you know what we do to statues,” referencing one of ISIS’ favorite hobbies – destroying priceless works of art.
Al- Baghdadi wasn’t above some self-deprecating humor.
“A lot of people tell me I need to be more tolerant, I shouldn’t kill so many people, that my interpretation of Islam is too strict – but who cares what al Qaeda says anyway?” al-Baghadi exclaimed, drawing laughter and some applause. “Just to dispel any myths that might be out there: I was not thrown out of al Qaeda for stealing Osama’s beard dye.”
Al-Baghdadi also managed to ding Bashar al-Assad (“I’m sorry to whoever is at Assad’s table; I’ve heard he has terrible gas”), George W. Bush (“With all this talk about Bush starting ISIS, I’m starting to worry he’ll ask for royalties”), and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (“Bibi, the good thing about being Caliph is that I don’t have to worry about anyone voting in droves”). He ended the night, however, on a serious note.
“It’s been 91 years since the last Caliphate Correspondents’ Dinner, and in that time the world has made great strides in technology, living standards and human rights,” al-Baghdadi concluded. “With your help, together, we can undo all that.”