August 11 – Presidential Joke Day

Posted on August 11, 2015

There is a long tradition of Americans making jokes at the expense of their government, including their presidents. But today is not about comedians and other ordinary people joking about the president. Instead, it is all about presidents, themselves, who make jokes.

This unofficial holiday commemorates August 11, 1984, when President Ronald Reagan made a joke while doing a microphone test.

He was running for re-election, preparing to make a weekly speech on National Public Radio, helping with a sound check. The radio technicians doing the sound check may have been expecting to hear him say the normal (and boring) sound-check “testing, testing,” but instead they heard Reagan say, “My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

At least one of the radio technicians told others what President Reagan had said (even though everyone surely knew that Reagan was joking!), and soon many people were talking about Reagan's joke. And – since it was a microphone test – there was a recording of the joke, which was soon leaked. The joke became so widely known that soon the official Soviet news agency was condemning the joke, calling it an “unprecedented and hostile attack.”

Here are some jokes cracked by a variety of presidents:

John F. Kennedy (to Nobel Prize winners):
I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.

George W. Bush:
"These stories about my intellectual capacity really get under my skin. You know, for a while I even thought my staff believed it. There on my schedule first thing every morning it said, 'Intelligence Briefing.'"

Bill Clinton:

"Being president is like running a cemetery: you've got a lot of people under you and nobody's listening."

Theodore Roosevelt:
"When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'present' or 'not guilty.'"

Ronald Reagan (the oldest president to take office):
One of my favorite quotations about age comes from Thomas Jefferson. He said that we should never judge a president by his age, only by his work. And ever since he told me that, I've stopped worrying.”

John Adams:

''In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.'

Abraham Lincoln (accused of being two-faced, or dishonest):

“If I were two faced, would I be wearing this one?”

Barack Hussein Obama:

Many of you know that I got my name, Barack, from my father. What you may not know is Barack is actually Swahili for 'That One.' And I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn't think I'd ever run for president."

Obama has a great sense of humor, as we can see from the many funny videos people have posted, like this one, that one, and this one over here.

Also on this date:

Apple computer inventor Steve Wozniak's birthday

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