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Campaign Comedy: Political Humor from Clinton to Kennedy (Humor in Life and Letters Series) Hardcover – May 1, 1994
by Gerald Gardner (Author)
The issues of our presidential elections and the virtues and flaws of our candidates come into sharp focus when illuminated by the wit of political observers. America’s humorists brighten the electoral scene, reminding us that we needn’t always look at presidential campaigns with a solemn air. Thanks to the satiric insights of America’s wits, we are able to keep a sense of perspective about the candidates, particularly when their follies and foibles are most intolerable.
It is the presidential campaign humor created by America’s comedians, humorists, journalists, editorial cartoonists, and the candidates themselves that writer Gerald Gardner celebrates in Campaign Comedy. He reviews the humor, from the caustic to the comedic, that most recently targeted Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Ross Perot in the explosive 1992 election. He also focuses, in a campaign-by-campaign format, on the humor generated by the presidential campaigns ranging back to the epochal struggle between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960. Candidates including Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Lyndon Johnson, and the men they defeated are also the subject of the hilarious or vicious wit that is chronicled here.
Campaign Comedy is brimming with relevant and pithy humor from Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Art Buchwald, Mark Russell, Bob Hope, Mort Sahl, Garry Trudeau, and the closet wits who supplied the presidential candidates with the “spontaneous humor” that they employed during their campaigns. Gardner also highlights the campaign humor of television’s most famous political shows, “That Was the Week That Was,” “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” and “Saturday Night Live.”
Gerald Gardner provides a delightful reminder that humor is a basic form of communication through which the media, the humorists, and the candidates convey their skepticism, anger, and differences. He makes it clear why humor is the most essential element in a democracy and why it is the one ingredient that no totalitarian society seems to possess.
This is an amusing and extensive, if mostly unanalytical, compilation of the humor expressed in presidential campaigns and reigns since 1960. Gardner, author of All the Presidents’ Wits and former writer for the satirical television show That Was the Week That Was , devotes a chapter to each candidate. Then, citing comedians, cartoonists, columnists and the politicians themselves, he describes the comedic themes concerning each candidate and recounts the best jokes. The author, who wrote gags for Robert Kennedy, occasionally offers inside information, such as compilations of unused zingers written for candidates Michael Dukakis in 1988 and George Bush in 1992. However, he offers little on the process of creating political comedy. And since his dollops of analysis are insightful–Ronald Reagan was a better joke teller than “America’s funny men,”–the book would have benefited from more such observations.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Campaign Comedy celebrates the presidential campaign humor created by America’s comedians, humorists, journalists, editorial cartoonists, and the candidates themselves.