By Megan Cassella
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With seven performances under his belt, U.S. President Barack Obama will try one last time to bring the house down at the annual White House correspondents' dinner on Saturday, a night of playful ribbing of both politicians and the news media.
The black-tie event, which Obama has previously joked is "a night when Washington celebrates itself," brings together journalists and media moguls, Hollywood stars and policy wonks and the powerbrokers from Capitol Hill.
For Obama, who is scheduled to speak around 10:20 p.m. ET (0220 GMT Sunday), it will be his final correspondents' dinner as a sitting president. Comedian Larry Wilmore, who hosts a show on the cable outlet Comedy Central, will take to the podium after the president's remarks.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Friday not to rule out surprises from Obama, who has polished his comedic timing over seven prior dinner appearances.
"I know that the president will certainly poke a little fun at himself," Earnest said, adding that he thought some "good-natured ribbing of his friends will occur as well."
In previous years, Obama has taken on Washington gridlock, political rivals and presidential hopefuls with usually light-hearted, but sometimes pointed, jokes.
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who won't be at the dinner, could surface in Obama's monologue.
Back in 2011, when Trump was weighing a 2012 presidential run and was in the ballroom, Obama skewered him for questioning whether the president was born in the United States. He then speculated about the change the real estate mogul would bring to the White House, including bikini-clad women in the front fountain and gold columns by the entryway.
Wilmore, who has been working on his jokes with a small team for the last month, said he plans to talk about the presidential election and Obama's legacy. "I'll definitely bring up race," Wilmore, who is African-American, told cable network C-SPAN. "That's going to be an issue in a lot of different ways."
The dinner, a long-standing tradition, has morphed from a relatively low-key gathering of journalists and their sources into a glamorous red-carpet affair.
Invitees this year include singer Aretha Franklin, actor Morgan Freeman and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller of the Denver Broncos. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is expected to attend, but his rival Hillary Clinton is not.
The dinner has drawn criticism from some who feel that partying with sources is not conducive to hard-hitting journalism.
C-SPAN and a number of other cable outlets plan live coverage.
(Reporting by Megan Cassella; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Mary Milliken)