THE MOCKING OF THE PRESIDENT: A History of Campaign Humor from lice to Ronnie by Gerald Gardner

THE MOCKING OF THE PRESIDENT: A History of Campaign Humor from lice to Ronnie

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An old hand at topical humor (All the Presidents' Wits, 1986, etc.) has collected political anecdotes and electoral zingers that hark back to his own days of funny lines and poses. A fond replay of presidential campaigns past, this time capsule will also serve as a healthy reminder of just how vulnerable to ridicule an aspirant to the Oval Office can be. This survey isn't merely the putative Wit and Wisdom of one candidate or another so much as the insights of many a Gridiron Dinner. Included are jokes about Spiro Agnew and the presidential pratfalls of Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live. One-liners from writers for Bob Hope and Johnny Carson, slings and arrows of Jules Feiffer and Mort Sahl, and the howlers of nameless beltway buffoons are all marshalled to remind you why you didn't vote for one clown or another and how the country survived anyway. Drawing on a vast file, Gardner (a panelist, no kidding, on the Gerald R. Ford Symposium on Humor and the Presidency in Grand Rapids) organizes his book by presidential elections, starting with 1984 (when Mark Russell combined James Dean with Ronald Reagan to get a ""Rebel Without a Clue""), working back (past LBJ and his Birds) 32 years (to the Gettysburg Address in Eisenhowerese). Reeling in reverse, we eventually find the author's own work as chief author of TV's ""That Was the Week That Was"" and producer of picture books called Who's in Charge Here? He recalls those years in Camelot well, but memory serves less well in a misquote from Romeo and Juliet that alters the meaning of the text, a lift (unattributed) from the Whites' seminal Subtreasury of American Humor, or the attribution of the same gag to two different sources. No matter, even if it's Theodore White without the beef, it's still mostly funny stuff. The collection works simply because, after all, nothing (save sex, maybe) can be as funny and as popular as politics. Amidst the bunting and confetti, there's a place for books like Gardner's that remind us to poke the high and mighty.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1988
Publisher: Wayne State Univ. Press