U.S. President Barack Obama joked about Russian President Vladimir Putin and issues much closer to home as he headlined the White House Correspondents' Association dinner Saturday night.

The annual tradition has the president mocking others and himself as celebrities mingle with journalists and politicians.

Obama made fun of conservative television hosts' talk about Putin's bare chest and one's comment last year about Putin being headed for a Nobel Peace Prize. "To be fair, they give those to just about anybody these days," said Obama, a laureate himself.

The president also joked about opposition claims that he had been born overseas instead of the United States.

Looking ahead to a possible successor in office, Obama said it will be a lot harder for Republicans to prove that Hillary Rodham Clinton was born in Kenya.

The president poked fun at CNN's extensive coverage of the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. He said he was still jet-lagged from his visit in recent days to Malaysia and added, "The lengths we have to go to get CNN coverage these days!"

Obama Correspondents

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel, Saturday, in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)

Obama also turned the humour on himself and his difficult 2013, including the deeply troubled rollout of the website for his health care overhaul.

First Lady Michelle Obama accompanied him to the black tie event, and Joel McHale, star of the NBC series Community, was the dinner's featured entertainer.

Rob Ford jokes

A few of McHale's jabs took aim at Toronto's Mayor Ford as the comedian said he was thrilled to be in Washington “the city that started the whole crack-smoking mayor craze.”

Former D.C. mayor Marion Barry was videotaped smoking crack cocaine and subsequently arrested in 1990.

“People say Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is a clumsy mess but he can’t help it, he’s a big guy,” McHale said. “He’s like a bull in a crack pipe shop.”

Celebrities attending included Sofia Vergara and the stars of Washington-centric shows like Veep and Scandal.

The dinner has often come at key moments of Obama's presidency. In 2011, Obama showed up the day before special operations troops killed Osama bin Laden. Last year's dinner came nearly two weeks after the deadly Boston Marathon.

This time, the U.S. and Europe are anxiously watching Ukraine and Russia's role in the turbulence in the eastern region of the former Soviet state.

Journalists honoured

The correspondent's association, which represents the White House press corps, is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Several journalists were awarded prizes for their coverage of the presidency and national issues.

Glenn Thrush of Politico and Brianna Keilar of CNN won the Aldo Beckman Award, which recognizes excellence in the coverage of the presidency.

Peter Baker of The New York Times and Peter Maer of CBS News won the Merriman Smith Award for deadline coverage.

Megan Twohey of Reuters and a partnership between The Center for Public Integrity's Chris Hamby and ABC News' Matthew Mosk and Brian Ross won the Edgar A. Poe Award for coverage of issues of national significance.

With files from CBC News