In the past year and a half, Leno has invited Obama, the first lady and even senior White House adviser David Axelrod to appear on his show for some friendly chats. But like entertainers at previous dinners, Leno was expected on Saturday to make some jabs at Obama and other politicians.
Obama will be coming with his own set of jokes, although he may be more careful this time. When he last appeared with Leno on "The Tonight Show," Obama equated his own bowling skills with the Special Olympics. He later apologized for the remark.
Among the 3,000 guests invited to witness the gags were celebrities including Justin Bieber, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige, Adrian Grenier, Steven Spielberg, Michael Douglas, John Cusack, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Alba, Jeremy Piven and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Jason Wu, one of Michelle Obama's favorite designers, as well as Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn were also expected.
Look for Washington types such as Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Party crashers were not welcome. After Tareq and Michaele Salahi got through White House gates without invitations to a state dinner, guests had to bring a dinner ticket or printed invitation to attend dinner pre-parties at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Organizers said they were trying to cut down on crowds.
But the glitzy event has grown to become much more than the $225-per-ticket dinner. Celebrities, political elite and journalists were also expected to flood several after-parties that can have red carpets of their own, said Sarah Schaffer of Capitol File Magazine, a host to one of the parties.
At the dinner, the White House Correspondents' Association will introduce students from Washington who will receive college scholarships.
To be honored at the dinner are several journalists:
--Ben Feller of The Associated Press and Jake Tapper of ABC News, for winning the Merriman Smith Award for presidential coverage under deadline pressure. Feller won for his coverage of Obama's unexpected late-night visit to Dover Air Force Base to honor fallen soldiers. Tapper won for his story that revealed tax problems of former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
--Mark Knoller, of CBS News, for winning the Aldo Beckman award for sustained excellence in White House coverage. Knoller won for his work covering the White House for more than 35 years and in using multiple platforms to report.
--Suzanne Bohan and Sandy Kleffman, of the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times, for winning the Edgar A. Poe Award for excellence in coverage of news of national or regional significance. They were cited for a four-part series entitled, "Shortened Lives: Where You Live Matters."
The White House Correspondents' Association was formed in 1914 as a liaison between the press and the president. Every president since Calvin Coolidge has attended the dinner.