Actress Bette Midler, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, opera singer Justino Díaz, Motown producer Berry Gordy and Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels arrived at the White House shortly after 4:00 p.m. for the reception with President Biden, first lady Jill, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
The group was ushered into the East Room of the White House, welcomed by champagne and music by the President's Own United States Marine Band.
Jill donned a green gown adorned with white, silver and black embellishments while the president put on his tux for the black tie event.
Following Biden's remark, the crew departed for the formal ceremony at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the northwest Washington, D.C. neighborhood of Foggy Bottom.
Biden told the honorees that their contributions in the arts have helped during the coronavirus pandemic as people 'search for greater meaning'.
Perhaps the most memorable point of the president's near-twenty minute remarks was when he cracked a few jokes when honoring Michaels, who he called a 'wise guy.'
'He's trying out seven guys to play me,' Biden said, which earned the president his biggest round of applause of the night.
Since 1991, six different actors have impersonated Biden.
President Joe Biden hosted five honorees at the Kennedy Center Honors reception at the White House on Sunday evening
The president and first lady Jill Biden arrive at the Kennedy Center Honors reception in the East Room of the White House on December 5
The honorees from L-R: Operatic bass-baritone Justino Diaz, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, actress Bette Midler, Motown founder Berry Gordy and Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell
'Laughter is good for the soul. If you can't laugh at yourself, we're in big trouble. And you make me laugh at myself a lot,' Biden said when honoring SNL creator Lorne Michaels
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously loves to attend the Honors. Here the California Democrat greets a guest at the White House reception on Sunday before attending the event
Kevin Nealon played Biden in 1991 and Jason Sudeikis had a long-standing role as the vice president from 2008-2020.
Between 2019-2020, when Biden was running for and became president, four other actors portrayed him on SNL – Woody Harrelson, John Mulaney, Jim Carrey and Alex Moffat.
'Laughter is good for the soul. If you can't laugh at yourself, we're in big trouble,' he said to Michaels, adding: 'And you make me laugh at myself a lot.'
In the audience at the president’s reception were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who famously loves to attend the Honors each year. Biden’s sister Valerie was also there, as was Caroline Kennedy.
Biden and Jill's attendance at the Honors on Sunday night marks the first time in four years a president has attended Washington D.C.'s premiere social event after Trump refused to go in the face of criticism from the honorees.
Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff join the first couple in the presidential box.
The Biden's and second couple have been seen in public together more frequently following reports of dysfunction in the vice president's office and frustration in the West Wing with Harris.
President Trump skipped the Kennedy Center Honors, publicly stating that he wished to avoid marring the celebration with a 'political distraction' after some of the honorees threatened to boycott the awards if Trump attended.
Actress Bette Midler stands and waves as the audience applauds her career achievements, which were listed by the president
Joni Mitchell arrives at the Kennedy Center Honors reception in the East Room of the White House on Sunday evening before the official ceremony at the Kennedy Center a few miles away
Motown Records founder Berry Gordy stands and pulls down his mask to show off his smile as applause breaks out after Biden