Paul Boller's book tells funny stories about the Presidents of the United States from George Washington to Bill Clinton. Some stories show a president's quick wit and command of the situation. Others reveal presidential slips of tongue or of judgment. Most are funny, some are corny, and a small number just don't work. Judge for yourself.
My two favorite short shorts:
A reporter on Air Force One asks John F. Kennedy what would happen if the plane crashed. JFK answers: "Two things. First, tomorrow your name would be in the paper. Second, it would be in very small print."
In the middle of a debate over teenage birth control in California (when Reagan was the governor), a state senator charged "Illegitimate births to teen-aged mothers have increased alarmingly while Reagan has been in office." Reagan: "Thanks very much... I have never felt so young and virile."
This book is funny and a good invitation to learn about our presidents to anyone in the Jay Leno generation, who get most of their news secondhand from late-night comedians. The chapter of anecdotes for each president begins with an overview of the president's life and the major events of his administration. These summaries offer background that some readers will need to understand the anecdotes. And they are useful history lessons in their own right.
I first encountered an older edition in a used book store. But I recommend the most recent version for your Kindle or iPhone. The short anecdotes are the right format for interruptible DC metro reading. And without the most current version you would not read the humor of Bill Clinton's chapter. Not to be missed.
There have been many different personalities serve as the President of the United States, from dynamic types such as Theodore Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter to the extreme reserve of Calvin Coolidge. However, each was capable of humor in their own unique way, and this collection of stories about the presidents from Washington through Clinton shows much of their humanity. The funniest President of all was probably Abraham Lincoln, and his sense of humor helped him get through the greatest crisis this nation has ever faced.
However, I found the funniest one to be when a society woman sat next to Calvin Coolidge and informed him that she had a bet that she could get more than two words out of him. His reply was, "You lose." Any person who could utter such a line without breaking stride would have made a great straight man. While there is no real historical significance to the anecdotes, some of the public performance of these men does come through in the stories. There were many times when it was possible to see some of their effectiveness as leaders reflected in their jokes. Politics will always remain an exercise in personal charm and there is no better way to do that than making jokes.
I enjoyed the book, finding it a light journey through the history of the American presidency, not in deeds, but in funny words.
on July 12, 2000
No, this is not a scholarly reference work. What it is is an amusing read that helps to put human faces on our Presidents- especially those who served back when we didn't see the President on TV every day. Each President is covered with an introduction of a few pages, then a series of anecdotes that range from touching to laugh-out-loud. Some are unsubstantiated, and the author is up front about that. Extensive footnotes provide documentation on every story.
You learn that Lincoln was not only one of our greatest Presidents, but also one of the wittiest. That Coolidge was a penny-pincher with a dry wit. That Washington at times had doubts about his abilities. We even get Reagan and his one-liners, and Clinton with all his back slapping (though the book being published in 1996 leaves out some of the best material of his Presidency!)
on April 20, 2001
This book attempts to show the human side of presidents, and includes a short profile of each as well as amusing anecdotes. In reality it is hard to really get a feel for the personalities of some of the presidents profiled because many of the anecdotes are fanciful legends rather an accurate portrayal. For example, the George washington and the cherry tree legend is repeated here. On the other hand, much presidential wit and humor is recounted. Some fairly mediocre presidents ahd a pretty good wry sense of humor, such as Warrren G. harding. This book is entertaining but not a primary source for historical information.
on January 15, 1999
Very light reading and not at all comprehensive, but this book doesn,t aim for that. Instead it uses anecdotes (real and unsubstantiated) to give a different view of America's past and present leaders. The author points out those stories that are probably fables and he does give a 2 or 3 page synopsis of each presidents tenure. It is very good for what it is.
on June 16, 1998
I don't really have much to say about this book, but I thought that it was interesting. It of some of the stories of presidents. Some actually seemed reasonable, while others were not. I feel that it could NOT help you if you were doing a research paper, but if you are just wanting to learn more about the presidents, this book would be fine.