ALL THE PRESIDENTS' WITS: The Power of Presidential Humor by Gerald Gardner

ALL THE PRESIDENTS' WITS: The Power of Presidential Humor

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Another compilation of political gags. Gardner's book hearkens back to a more naive age, although the author at least admits that all the jokes here were written by professional scriptwriting hacks (the ""Presidential Wits"" of the title). Sadly, Gardner seems unable to achieve a more sensitive political analysis than a laugh meter might. Reducing the complex game of politics to a string of one-liners, Gardner changes and distorts much of recent history. He offers Jesse Jackson's ""Hymie"" remark and Earl Butz's slurs as humor. As a nonpolitical gagsmith, Gardner can only evaluate presidents by their abilities as performers. Naturally, Ronald Reagan is rated highly from this limited point of view. Yet the trouble begins when Gardner decides that because Reagan to! Is jokes better than Jimmy Carter did, he is therefore a better human being. Gardner's perspective on past history is as myopic: Richard Nixon is praised for ""unconscious humor,"" while the vulgarity now attributed to Lyndon Johnson is called ""earthy wit."" Does LBJ's habit of ""bringing some aristocratic Ivy Leaguer into his bathroom and conferring with him during evacuation"" really belong in a book about wit? As this quote demonstrates, Gardner treads daintily among presidential leavings, bowdlerizing wherever possible. The results are an odd mix of exaggerated refinement and baseness, which achieves in the reader not humor but glumness.

Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 1986
Publisher: Beech Tree/Morrow