We love a good joke, and the fact that a president of the United States has made it makes the joke even funnier; that’s why National Presidential Joke Day on August 11 is one of our favorite special events to celebrate. This day is meant to highlight the humor coming out of the highest office in our land. We take a look at the jokes — intentional and unintentional, made by current and former presidents, and commemorate a holiday that recognizes the fact that presidents have a sense of humor too.
History of National Presidential Joke Day
This day itself is built upon a joke made by then-President Ronald Reagan. During a soundcheck for his regular Saturday evening radio broadcast on NPR, Reagan said, “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.” What he did not know was that the feed was live.
While networks had been keeping comments made during soundchecks private since 1982, someone leaked this particular feed to the general public. The joke showed up on the front page of “The London Standard,” and, eventually, was even aired on CBS, in its Monday evening report. His supporters loved it, but his critics did not. Neither did the Soviet Union. They reportedly put their military on high alert upon hearing the broadcast, and once it was clear that this was definitely not a threat, they called it a “monstrous” statement. America loved the situation and decided to memorialize Reagan’s joke by establishing National Presidential Joke Day. Reagan is not the only president with a funny bone, however.
George Washington was a strong political leader, but his sense of humor shone in many instances. Take the names of his dogs for instance. He named them Tipsy, Mopsey, Ragman, Truelove, and Vulcan. His letters — even during the worst days of the Revolutionary War, are peppered with funny quips and jokes.
America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln was another famous leader with a humorous streak. This facet of his personality was so widely known, that his opponents wrote a song about it called, ‘Hey! Uncle Abe, are You Joking Yet?’
Former President Barack Obama also famously never missed a chance at cracking a joke, even at formal events like the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. He stated that he saved his worst jokes for the Presidential Turkey Ceremony, delivering what he said was a “corny-copia of dad jokes about turkeys.”
National Presidential Joke Day timeline
Lincoln calls for a session of all War Cabinet members to discuss something important and then reads funny stories from a book.
Inspired by President Ronald Reagan's hilarious gaffe, America decides to celebrate all such leaders who joke around by establishing National Presidential Joke Day.
Senator Bob Dole publishes a book about the witticisms and funny quips by those in charge; this novel is named “Great Presidential Wit (...I Wish I was in this Book).”
An article in the “Washington Post” describes Barack Obama as such, adding that he contributes deadpan flourish(es) to his punchlines; one of his speechwriters, David Litt, tells the newspaper that these flourishes come from Obama himself.
National Presidential Joke Day FAQs
Who was the funniest U.S. president?
Multiple lists and websites rank Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, James Monroe, among the funniest presidents in U.S. history.
Are presidential jokes real?
Every famous politician usually has a couple of comedy writers to ensure that their speeches and talks are infused with a sense of humor. While some jokes are scripted, many quips — especially by historical presidents — are the result of their own funny personalities.
Why do presidents make jokes?
Most presidents understand that adding some levity to their speeches makes them likable. They also use humor as a weapon against opponents, difficult situations, and even boredom.
National Presidential Joke Day Activities
Check out Reagan's joke
YouTube has a video of the joke that spawned our event. Have a laugh as you listen to it, and send it across to your friends.
Find other presidential jokes
Like we've written above, presidents down the ages have laughed it up with their constituents. Check out various sources, websites, and of course, YouTube, to find the funniest ones. There are even presidential joke montages that will have you rolling on the floor.
Watch “Man of the Year”
A jester becomes president, and naturally, is pulled in many directions at once. The perfect movie for our day, the cherry on top is that the leading role is played by none other than the famous funny guy, the late actor Robin Williams.
5 Of The Funniest Faux-Pas Committed By U.S. Presidents
Eleanor Roosevelt visited a penitentiary
Upon asking where his wife was, President Franklin Roosevelt was given the answer “prison;” he replied, "I’m not surprised. But what for?”
George Bush was labeled as indecisive
To this, he quipped, “People say I’m indecisive, but I don’t know about that.”
Jimmy Carter's self-deprecating wit
While talking about his increased esteem in the U.S., he said, "It is very nice now when people wave at me, they use all their fingers.”
President Herbert Hoover's address
Speaking at the Nebraska Republican Conference in 1936, Hoover joked, “Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the National Debt."
John F. Kennedy's take on politicians
Addressing the reputations politicians have, Kennedy once said, "Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president, but they don’t want them to become politicians in the process.”
Why We Love National Presidential Joke Day
This day humanizes our leaders
In a world where leaders like to be taken seriously, it is refreshing to see a little levity from them. It reminds us that they are people too.
Everybody needs a little fun in their lives. This day — and the jokes we hear — is a great way to beat the stress and roll around laughing.
We're developing a sense of humor
If the politicians can do it, so can we. Many presidential jokes include examples of these people taking a poke at their own images, their critics, and even their bad sense of humor. As we laugh at/with them, we are slowly developing our sense of humor.
National Presidential Joke Day dates