• Benjamin Franklin’s 1754 cartoon of a cut-up snake to represent the
“un-United” States brought visual Imagery into American politics.
• Today, photography is enjoying a new role in political humor as
shown in the analogies given below.
• In 1979, Bud Clark, a
bar owner in Portland,
Oregon, posed facing a
nude statue apparently
wearing only a trench
• 500,000 copies were
sold to benefit a local
fine arts group. In 1982,
he was elected mayor
of Portland and served
JIMMY CARTER and RONALD REAGAN:
•In 1980 Mort Sahl said that people did not vote FOR Ronald
Reagan as much as they voted AGAINST Jimmy Carter.
•Sahl concluded “If Reagan had been unopposed, he would have
PARIS HILTON and JOHN McCAIN:
•In an attempt to inject some life into the 2008 campaign, McCain
ran an ad mocking Barack Obama’s celebrity status by comparing
him with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.
•Hilton responded by posing in a swimming suit by the side of a
pool and solemnly announcing that she would be happy to be
considered for the Vice Presidency.
Tina Fey and Sarah Palin:
Which is which?
• Time magazine wrote,
• “It’s hard to tell where Tina
Fey ends and Sarah Palin
begins…the updo, the wink,
• Where Palin’s campaign
projected a smart, tough,
folksy reformer, Fey showed
a posing, in-over-her-head
• “It is a seamless blending of
reality and parody.”
Tina Fey as Sarah Palin:
Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton:
REAL-LIFE RELIEF FROM
• In 1992, President Bush became ill at a televised state
dinner in Tokyo. He vomited on the Japanese Prime
Minister and then fainted.
• The dinner guests were both horrified and frightened.
• First lady Barbara Bush stood up and said that the
incident was the fault of Emperor Akihito and Crown
Prince Naruhito who that afternoon had beaten George in
• When she explained, “We Bushes aren’t used to losing!”
everyone knew she was joking. They relaxed because
she would not have made a joke if she thought the
President were in real danger.
•In 1981when President Reagan was shot by
John Hinckley and was taken into the operating
room of George Washington hospital for
treatment, he quipped, “Please assure me that
you are all Republicans.”
•The world relaxed when they realized that
Reagan was probably not going to die because
he could still make a joke.
• When William Gladstone attacked Disraeli in front of
the British Parliament by saying that Disraeli would
die “either on the gallows or of a horrible disease.”
• Disraeli responded, “That depends on whether I
embrace your principles or your mistress.”
• In the 1950s when Adlai Stevenson was running for
President, a voter assured him that “Every thinking
American will vote for you.”
• Stevenson replied, “That won’t be enough.”
Insult Humor Continued
Mike Peters gained national attention
with a cartoon that managed to insult
three U. S. Presidents. It showed:
– George Washington saying, “I cannot tell a
– Richard Nixon saying, “I cannot tell the
– and Jimmy Carter saying, “I cannot tell the
• Ronald Reagan was the oldest person ever elected to serve as
U. S. President. He joked about his age at a Gridiron Club
dinner noting that the club had been founded in 1885.
• He quipped that he felt bad at not being invited…“It seems like
• His most famous quip came in a televised debate with his
opponent Walter Mondale. With a twinkle in his eye, he said
that age should not be an issue, and then added, “I will not
exploit, for political purposes the youth and inexperience of my
Mondale laughed at Reagan’s joke, but his heart was broken.
He knew at that point he had lost the election.
Gerald Ford was Unexpectedly Appointed Vice-
President, and then President Nixon Resigned.
• One of his best lines was that when he was first invited to
speak he was “then America’s first instant Vice-
President, and then I became America’s first instant
President. The Marine Corps Band is so confused they
don’t know whether to play, ‘Hail to the Chief,’ or ‘You’ve
Come a Long Way, Baby.’”
• Chevy Chase used to do a popular parody of Gerald Ford,
including his tripping on the stairs of Air Force One. In
1986, Ford hosted a “Humor and the Presidency”
symposium at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand
Rapids, Michigan. Ford turned the tables by tripping
Chevy Case who had come as an honored guest.
GERALD FORD Continued
•Robert Orben was the Presidential speech
writer for Gerald Ford. Sometimes Ford muffed
the lines Orben had written.
•So Orben attached a 3 X 5 card on the inside
cover of Ford’s speech binder, reading, “I told
my wife I knew this speech backwards, and
that’s how I’m delivering it.”
•This became one of Ford’s most successful
lines. He sometimes bungled speeches just so
he could use it.
JOHN F. KENNEDY
• Many of Kennedy’s critics felt that he
had an unfair advantage because of his
• So during one speech, he pulled a fake
telegram from his father saying, “Don’t
buy one vote more than necessary. I’ll
be damned if I’ll pay for a landslide.”
• At the Democratic National Convention in August
of 2008, Hillary Clinton said that John McCain and
George W. Bush had the same policies…
– On the economy,
– On supporting the oil companies,
– On supporting big business,
– On the war in Iraq.
• She added that it’s appropriate that the
Republican National Convention is being held in
the Twin Cities. “We can’t tell them apart either.”
Know Your Audience
• President Reagan made a joke to an inside group
about bombing Russia, but his statement was
• Talking about Geraldine Ferraro, Vice President
George Bush bragged that “We tried to kick a little
ass last night.” It made the wire services.
Even when microphones have been turned off,
reporters in the room might overhear sub-rosa or
joking comments and report them to wide
DEMOCRATS VS. REPUBLICANS: An
Example of Stereotyping
• Democrats buy most of the books that have been
• Republicans form censorship committees and read
them as a group.
• Democrats name their children after popular sports
figures, politicians, and entertainers.
• Republican children are named after their parents or
grandparents, according to where the money is.
• Republicans tend to keep their shades drawn,
although there is seldom any reason why they
• Democrats ought to, but don’t.
• Republican boys date Democratic girls. They plan
to marry Republican girls, but feel they’re entitled to
a little fun first.
• Republicans sleep in twin beds—some even in
• That is why there are more Democrats.
From the October 1, 1974, Congressional
Record, submitted by Craig Hosmer
The Evolution of Political
• In the early 1990s, Richard Zoglin wrote in
Time magazine that political correctness
started out as the province of a small band of
• But it has now become an establishment
• “It is now p.c. to make fun of p.c.”
A Historical Example of the Power of
• During the 1930s prior to WW II, many Americans were
isolationists, and were strongly against any hints of anti-
• On January 19, 1940, almost two years before the
bombing of Pearl Harbor and nine months before Charlie
Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, the Three Stooges released
a movie entitled You Nazi Spy.
• Because it was considered “just slapstick comedy”
critics and politicians paid little attention to it, but it
strongly influenced many Americans to rethink their
A More Recent Example of Using Humor
to Make a Serious Point
George Carlin did a “comic” analysis of the changes in
the words used to talk about soldiers suffering from
•Shell Shock—two syllables from WWI “Simple, honest,
•Battle Fatigue—four syllables from WWII “And
‘fatigue’ is a nicer word than ‘shock’.”
•Operational Exhaustion—eight syllables from the
Korean War “the humanity has been squeezed out; it’s
now totally sterile.”
The Language of War Continued
• Traumatic Stress-Disorder—still eight
syllables, plus a hyphen from the
Vietnam War. The pain is now buried
under the jargon.
The Three Amigos: David Letterman’s Top 10 List about
Donald Trump—On the Steve Martin and Martin Short Show
# 10: That thing on Trump’s head was the gopher in Caddyshack.
# 9: During sex, Donald Trump calls out his own name.
# 8: Donald Trump looks like the guy in the lifeboat with the women and
# 7: He wants to build a wall. How about building a wall around that thing
on his head.
# 6: Trump walked away from a moderately successful television show
for some emotional crap…. No wait, that was me.
# 5: Donald Trump weighs 240 pounds—250 with the cologne.
# 4: Trump would like all Americans to know that thing on his head is free
# 3. That’s not a hair do; it’s a wind advisory.
# 2. Donald Trump has produced a movie called “No Amigos.”
# 1: Thanks to Donald Trump, the Republican mascot is also an ass.
Here is a picture of Trump and Clinton at the
2017 Mummer’s Day Parade
in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
In Conclusion, A Story
A man named Donald bought a horse from a farmer for $250. The farmer
agreed to deliver the horse the next day. The next day, the farmer drove
to Donald’s house and said, “Sorry, Donald, but I have some bad news.
The horse died.”
Donald replied, “Well, then just give me back my money.”
“I can’t do that,” said the farmer, “I already spent it.”
“OK, then just bring me the dead horse,” said Donald.
“What are you going to do with him?” asked the farmer.
Donald said, “I’m going to raffle him off.”
“You can’t raffle off a dead horse!” exclaimed the farmer.
“Sure I can!” Said Donald. “I just won’t tell anybody he’s dead.”
A month later, the farmer met up with Donald and asked him, “What
happened with the dead horse?”
“I raffled him off,” said Donald. “I sold 500 tickets at $5.00 each and
made a profit of $2,495.00.”
“Didn’t anyone complain?” the farmer asked.
“Just the guy who won,” said Donald. “So I gave him back his $5.00.”
Donald used the rest of his earnings to help pay for his move into the