Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who last week stunned the political world when she made a surprise announcement alongside President Trump that she’s leaving the post at the end of the year, featured as the keynote speaker Thursday night at the annual Alfred E. Smith charity dinner.
The event is known for being a joke fest, and Haley brought a boatload of gags with her — and many good jokes, too, that left the audience laughing. Haley joked about her surprise resignation last week, she joked about Trump — despite revealing that “everyone in Washington” advised her not to take any jabs at the president, she joked about the Elizabeth Warren Native American DNA test saga, and even cracked wise about Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has pleaded guilty in the probe being conducted by Robert Mueller. Not every joke landed as intended — she unleashed a few duds, particularly when she joked about her parents, who emigrated from Punjab, India, being legal immigrants, which drew some groans. A joke about the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and Democrats also elicited some groans.
But over all, it was a pretty sharp performance for someone moonlighting as a standup comedian. Here are her six best laugh lines from the night.
• “I really am super excited to be at the Al Smith Dinner. As a member of the Trump Cabinet, it is a thrill to be out to dinner without being harassed.”
• “Two years ago Trump was here and made some waves with his remarks, so last year you went with Paul Ryan, who’s a Boy Scout and that’s fine, but a little boring. So this year, you wanted to spice things up again. I get it, you wanted an Indian woman, but Elizabeth Warren failed her DNA test.” (Haley’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Punjab, India.) “Actually, when the president found out that I was Indian American, he asked me if I was from the same tribe as Elizabeth Warren.”
• “Actually the president called me this morning and gave me some really good advice. He said if I get stuck for laughs, just brag about his accomplishments. It really killed at the U.N., I got to tell you.” That joke was a reference to he added, referring to an incident at the U.N. General Assembly last month when audience members laughed after Trump said his “administration has accomplished more than almost any in the history of our country.” That was a reference to a remark Trump made during his speech at the U.N. General Assembly, which prompted an outburst of laughs from world leaders, and Haley’s joke drew a round of applause from the audience.
• “I learned that the U.N. has 193 member nations, 180 of which are mad at us on any given day, and the most important thing I learned is that with all of our differences there is still one thing that unites all 193 countries: At one point every single one of them was paying Paul Manafort.”
• “Jeff Sessions wanted to be here but he recused himself. Actually I saw Jeff Sessions earlier today, but not in New York, I saw him on LinkedIn looking for a job.”
• “The President got really mad about Woodward’s book, really mad. The book compared him to a fifth grader. A lot of Democrats seized on that, until they realized, they got beat by a fifth grader.”
Perhaps the most interesting joke of the evening came from comedian Jim Gaffigan, who sat right next to Haley as she delivered her 17-minute performance. Gaffigan, the emcee for the event, introduced Haley as the “next president of the United States.” During her resignation announcement Haley expressly said she was not going to run for president in 2020 … but as Jerry’s girlfriend on a classic episode of Seinfeld reminds us, “behind every joke there’s some truth.”
Watch Haley’s full performance below.