We spend a lot of time talking about the policies and personalities of American presidents, but how often to we talk about their senses of humor? Outside of the annual Correspondent’s Dinners, not that often. To add some levity to the super serious campaign season, now in full swing, Mediaite has complied a list of some of the best presidential jokes ever captured on film.
Some presidents are certainly funnier than others (looking at you, Nixon), but most of America’s chief executives had pretty well-developed senses of humor. We’re certain there are many funny moments that we left off this list, but here is a strong collection of humorous moments by the Presidents of the United States.
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John F. Kennedy Works The Crowd
John Kennedy knew how to work a crowd about as well as he knew how to work the Congress. The famous “Mrs. Murphy” joke in which Kennedy asks how much of an impact Mrs. Murphy’s boarding house would have on interstate commerce was quite racy for the time. That joke, as well as others, are entirely improvised and pretty funny, if a little dated.
Jimmy Carter’s Joke About A Joke
In 2001, well after the end of
Jimmy Carter‘s presidency, the 39th President recounted a story of how a jokes to the diplomatic community – that sometimes require being filtered through an interpreter – can be misconstrued.
George W. Bush’s Self-Loathing Comedy Hour
George W. Bush had more than his fair share of funny moments over the course of his presidency – many of them intentional. In his last address to the Radio And Television Correspondents Dinner, Bush nailed every joke. Having been humbled in his second term by more than his fair share of mishaps, Bush was free to be totally self-deprecating.
Harry Truman’s Lobster Joke
Harry Truman left office, the last president to never receive a college degree was still as folksy as he was in office. In an interview for the 1964 film “Decision,” Truman related a story about a fellow politician slipping up while entertaining constituents on the stump. Though the story is not necessarily a side-splitter, it’s easy to see just how personable and warm Truman could be – a far cry from how posterity views him as a tough and tenacious politician.
George H. W. Bush’s Ugly Lady Joke
Long after President
George H. W. Bush left office, in a press conference with his successor Bill Clinton, the normally staid Bush 41 told perhaps the most inflammatory, semi-misogynistic joke that any current or former public official ever got away with. Even the jovial Clinton was stunned at how Bush could get away with that one. It must be so liberating to be an ex-president.
Bill Clinton’s Hilarious Goodbye To The Press
Bill Clinton’s sense of humor was and remains legendary. He was famously roasted before the press corps by Russian President Boris Yeltsin which resulted in a torrent of laughter from Clinton that he could barely stem. In his final address to the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, Clinton made full use of then-fresh photo shopping humor. The weight of the presidency about to be lifted from his shoulders, Clinton seems quite pleased that he can again be himself.
Lyndon B. Johnson’s Private Dirty Joke
While discussing aspects of the Great Society legislation pending in Congress in 1964,
Lyndon Johnson decided to take a moment to tell some dirty jokes with Texas Gov. John Connelly and New Mexico Sen. Clinton Anderson in a private phone call. Aside from the off-color joke, the conversation is an interesting window into the political maneuvering that was occurring amid the contentious 1964 election and is still relevant today as the entitlement programs they were establishing at the time continue to dominate the political conversation today.
Barack Obama Roasts John McCain (And Vice Versa)
In October 2008, as the last presidential election was coming to a close, both
Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain attended the Alfred E. Smith dinner where the pair roasted each other. Obama’s prepared remarks may have been touched up a little bit by some professional comedy writers, but the delivery and the occasional ad lib is spot on. Many might recall how Obama destroyed , this is one of those moments that was quickly overshadowed by events and has been largely forgotten.
Donald Trump at a later Correspondent’s Dinner VIDEO
Reagan The Entertainer
A comedian before he was an actor before he was a politician,
Ronald Reagan was a natural entertainer, offered posterity too many complex jokes and one liners to recount in a single post. This joke may be the most famous, and it’s one you probably heard before. In this montage of “best of” moments, Reagan lampoons two of his favorite subjects – the Soviet Union and himself.
Honorable Mention: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Slightly Racist WWII Joke
While not technically presidential humor,
Eleanor Roosevelt’s WWII joke about the American soldier who was beside himself because he had not killed a Japanese solider is equal parts self-deprecating political humor and a window into the sensibilities of the era (if you’re easily offended, spare yourself the trouble). But where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt could not deliver a joke to save his life, Eleanor delivers a crowd pleaser here.