Many are scripted, lots are self-deprecating, some are off the cuff.
They’ve been delivered at news conferences, dinner parties and — in one case — from a hospital gurney. Jokes, it seems, are vital to a presidency.
So this Presidents Day, pause to ask not what your president can do for you, but whether he can tell a joke. Here’s a look at some of the best presidential zingers.
“I hope you're all Republicans.”
— Ronald Reagan, looking up at his physicians after being shot by a would-be assassin in 1981
“I am sure you have all noticed that the White House is getting a new coat of paint. The painter says it is leak-proof. I sure hope so.”
— Gerald Ford, to the White House Correspondents’ Assn. in 1975
“My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”
— John Adams, on his time as vice president
“I always look forward to these dinners where I'm supposed to be funny — intentionally.”
— George W. Bush, at the 2005 White House Correspondents’ Assn. Dinner
“I’m not surprised. But for what?”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt, when told that wife Eleanor Roosevelt, visiting a penitentiary, was “in prison”
“In my final year, my approval ratings keep going up. The last time I was this high, I was trying to decide on my major."
— Barack Obama, at the 2016 White House Correspondents’ Assn. Dinner
“The media is even more biased this year than ever before — ever. You want the proof? Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it — it's fantastic. They think she's absolutely great. My wife, Melania, gives the exact same speech, and people get on her case.”
— Donald Trump, before his election in 2016, on wife Melania Trump's Republican National Convention speech
“No matter how tough it gets, however, I have no intention of becoming a lame-duck president. Unless, of course, Cheney accidentally shoots me in the leg.”
— Bush, poking fun at Vice President Dick Cheney’s accidental shooting of a fellow hunter
“No matter how mean he is to me, I just love this guy. Because together, together we give hope to gray-haired chunky baby boomers everywhere.”
— Bill Clinton, on Jay Leno
"It costs a lot to dry-clean a suit over there in Japan, and the prime minister had an expensive one."
— George H.W. Bush, a week after vomiting on Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa at dinner in Tokyo in 1992
“With so much focus on the presidential election, I’ve been feeling a little lonely these days. I’m so desperate for attention, I almost considered holding a news conference.”
— Reagan, as a lame duck, remarking on the 1988 presidential election
"I'm surprised that a government organization could do it that quickly."
— Jimmy Carter, after a guide in Egypt told him it took only 20 years to build the Great Pyramid
“Madame, we spend our time taking pills and dedicating libraries.”
— Herbert Hoover, when asked what retired presidents do
“You won’t need a visa, but I may need one — I was thinking of going up to the Congress.”
— Richard Nixon, at the White House Correspondents’ Assn. Dinner in 1973, on a trip he was “seriously” thinking about taking
"They're all mine, son."
— Lyndon B. Johnson, addressing a Marine who said, "Mr. President, this is your helicopter over here"
“Over the last few months, I’ve lost 10 pounds. Where did they go? Why haven’t I produced them to the independent counsel? How did some of them manage to wind up on Tim Russert?”
— Clinton, at the 2000 White House Correspondents’ Assn. Dinner
"It was involuntary. They sank my boat."
— John F. Kennedy, when asked how he became a war hero
"If you give me a week, I might think of one."
— Dwight D. Eisenhower, when asked in 1960 what major ideas Nixon had contributed as vice president
“Tonight to show my goodwill, I'm going to give you such an inside story — off the record, of course, so put away your crayons.”
— Carter, to the White House Correspondents Assn. in 1979
“You don’t mean necking places?"
— Roosevelt, when asked at a news conference in 1940 about parking shoulders on highways
— Calvin Coolidge, after a young woman sitting next to him at a dinner party said she had bet that she could get at least three words of conversation from him
“I watch the commercials. I read my papers while the news is on.”
— Reagan, when confronted about reading important documents while watching TV
“I got on the scale, put in a penny, a card came out that said, ‘You are handsome, debonair, sophisticated, a born leader of men, a silver-tongued orator, and someday you will make your own mark in history.’ Helen leaned over, looked at the card and said, ‘It has your weight wrong, too.’”
— Ford, on longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas
“In 2008, my slogan was, ‘Yes, we can.’ In 2013, my slogan was, ‘Control-Alt-Delete.’”
— Obama, on the rocky rollout of the Obamacare website HealthCare.gov
“I always talk better lying down.”
— James Madison, as he lay on his death bed
"Were it not for my little jokes, I couldn't bear the burden of this office.”
— Abraham Lincoln
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