Would it be prudent to call George Bush funny?
This episode of Headliner of State, we're joined by Bush speechwriter Curt Smith, who tells us about the 41st president's personality and character. We cover the kind of humor that Bush enjoys, the "rules" he lives by as a public figure, and how he uses laughter to build personal relationships. Plus there's some great insight into the Bush-Reagan relationship.
Pull up your brightly colored socks and get to listening ...
Tragedy brought Gerald Ford to the White House ... but did humor help define his presidency?
Our excellent expert is Ron Nessen, an accomplished journalist who served as Ford's press secretary. Ron talks about Ford's character and his sense of what was "needed" from the president in the post-Watergate era. And we also chat about Ron's special place in comedy history, as the first political figure to host an episode of "Saturday Night Live."
It's an interesting look at an underappreciated president ... enjoy!
MUSIC: Hail Columbia, "Michigander Blues" by Jabbo Smith's Rhythym Aces, "Nightmare Boogie" by Slim Gaillard and His Boogiereeners
When we restarted this podcast in 2015, our first guest was Tom Rhodes. He's in town to headline the New Year's Eve shows, so he's back on the program!
We talk about celebrations around the world, looking sharp on stage, setting up shop in L.A. and lots more. Have a listen, then come party with us on NYE!
Jimmy Carter punched his ticket to Washington by running as an outsider. Could he make people laugh in the ultimate insider town?
Our excellent expert is James Fallows, who worked as Carter's lead speechwriter for two years. (These days, he's an astounding journalist working at The Atlantic.) We talk about Carter's voice, his appeal in the post-Watergate era, and whether he adapted to the rapidly changing "rules" of the modern media era.
Also, there's a story about an exploding gas station. What's not to love?
MUSIC: Hail Columbia, "Georgia Cake Walk" by Art Hodes and his Orchestra, "Salt Peanuts" by the Miles Davis Quintet
Orny Adams, one of the best observational comics in the business, headlines the Improv December 2-4. He stops in the lounge to talk about his amazing hair, memories of 20 years performing at the DC Improv, the "Comedian" documentary and more.
Stick around to the end for an amazingly cool story about the December 1 show.
Teddy Roosevelt believed in "the strenuous life," and part of that was the strain of having so damn much fun. Wherever TR went, laughter was sure to follow.
Joe Wiegand (teddyrooseveltshow.com) is our excellent expert. As a "reprisor," Joe transforms himself into the president to educate and entertain audiences all over the country. (Performance is in his blood -- his dad is the legendary "saloon comic" Jim Wiggins.) He's got great insight into TR's "machismo" based storytelling, his infectious personality and his role in the evolution of presidential humor.
Have a listen -- you'll be deeeeeelighted.
MUSIC: Hail Columbia, "Teddy's Boogie Woogie" by Teddy Powell and His Orchestra, "Moose the Mooche" by the Charlie Parker Septet.
Lots of people have given John Quincy Adams the title of America's greatest diplomat. But could he negotiate his way to the title of America's funniest president?
Biographer James Traub ("John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit") is our excellent expert this week, and he tells us how Adams developed a personality to suit his work in foreign relations. We're also looking for humor in one of the most remarkable documents ever produced by a president: JQA's 15,000-page journal. Get a glimpse of the personality of one of the most interesting guys to ever serve this country.
MUSIC: Hail Columbia, "Quincy Street Stomp" by the Bechet-Nichols Blue Five, "Quincy Hopping" by Larry Elgart's Orchestra
You can't deny that Woodrow Wilson was one of the most important presidents. But was he the funniest president?
Andrew Phillips, the curator of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, is our excellent expert. We talk about Woody's famously complex personality, his love of wordplay and some of the unfortunate aspects of his humor. It's an episode a century in the making ...
Bob is hands down one of our favorites, and he's headlining the club November 17-20. On today's podcast, you get 35 FREE minutes of Bob. We talk about his blown opportunity to be the craisin guy, the time he got run over, his advice for people planning to move to Maine, and his family vacations.
Great times with a great comedian. Come see him at the club!
Adam Ferrara headlines the Improv November 4-6, and he stops in to chat with us again on the podcast. Comedy is a process, and Adam has fascinating perspective on the building of a joke.
Plus we're talking "Top Gear," getting tips for traveling, and mentioning Renaissance art. You know, same old same old.
Comedy Hack Day matches comedians with coders. Together, they figure out funny ideas for apps and websites. Then they build 'em. And then they present 'em.
This year, the grand finale for Comedy Hack Day DC is at the Improv on November 13. We're talking to Ross Nover, who helps organize the event, and Kasha Patel, who was on the winning team for 2015. They explain how the event started -- and what it takes to be a champion. Have a listen, then come party at the presentations on 11/13.
John F. Kennedy charmed voters, reporters and just about everyone he met with his quick wit and self-effacing jokes. Why was humor so important to JFK, who might be our most charismatic president?
Author Thomas Maier ("When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys," "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings," "Masters of Sex") joins us to talk about the "Irish" nature of Kennedy's humor. For all his privileged upbringing, JFK knew how to use the humor of an outsider. And blessed by the flourishing medium of television, he managed to leverage laughter more effectively than almost every public political figure who came before him.
MUSIC: Hail Columbia, "Boston Bounce" by Dan Belloc's Orchestra, "Gambling Jack" by Jelly Roll Morton and His Red Hot Peppers
Grover Cleveland must have been fun -- the guy won the popular vote three times. But was he funny?
Sharon Farrell, the caretaker of the Cleveland Birthplace in New Jersey, is our special guest. She gives us a tour of both sides of Grover: The hard-working politician and lawyer, and the fun-loving guy who enjoyed drinking, fishing and hunting with friends. Was Grover a cut-up in private? Did his upright reputation prevent him from joking in public? And what exactly is "rotund jocularity"?
MUSIC: Hail Columbia, "Jersey Bounce" by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, "Jersey Sweet" by James P. Johnson
Ronald Reagan was called the "Great Communicator," and a big part of that was humor. Whether he was explaining his philosophy, deflating an opponent or firing up a crowd, Reagan knew that a well-placed joke could make all the difference.
Journalist and Reagan biographer Lou Cannon joins us to explain how Reagan's use of humor was both natural and practiced -- and why Reagan was so great at connecting with people both in person and through mass media.
MUSIC: Hail Columbia, "Hollywood Jump" by Count Basie and His Orchestra, "Hollywood Hop" by Earl "Fatha" Hines
John Tyler is the answer to a few trivia questions: The first vice president promoted to the big job, the president with the most kids, and the only president who joined the Confederacy. But what about this distinction: Was Tyler the funniest president?
Professor Edward P. Crapol (retired from the College of William and Mary) is our guest. His 2006 biography, "John Tyler: The Accidental President," is one of the most significant studies of the 10th president in the last 50 years. Ed helps us understand Tyler's "aristocratic" bearing and shares some choice examples of the Virginian's wit.
MUSIC: "The Outlaw" by the Horace Silver Quintet, "Big John's Special" by Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra
For eight years, Brian was one of the funniest guys on "TMZ." But the last few years, he's been branching out from that gig to acting, parenting, AND stand-up comedy.
The PG County native talks to us about his very eclectic and very cool career in the entertainment industry. Have a listen, then come to the DC Improv lounge on November 12 to see Brian headline.
You know Tony Perkins from his work on Fox 5 and "Good Morning America." You've heard him on "The Tony Perkins Show" podcast, which tapes live at the Improv on October 8.
But did you know that Tony worked for a decade as a stand-up comedian? He stops into the Improv to tell us about his experiences on the comedy stage -- and whether he'll ever do it again.
Sean Patton makes his DC Improv headlining debut on September 29, closing out our DC Beer Week celebration with DC Brau. So we got him on the phone to say hi, tell us about his amazing comedic storytelling powers and share a drinking story.
Check out this chat, then get your tickets for 9/29 ...
The search for the funniest president continues! We know that people liked Ike. But was comedy part of Dwight Eisenhower's appeal?
Our guest is Michael Birkner, a history professor at Gettysburg College -- the very place where Eisenhower kept his offices after leaving the White House. We talk about Eisenhower's fundamental good nature, and the way he used his avuncular image to his strategic advantage. And while we know that Eisenhower was able to laugh at himself, we tackle the question: Could Ike tell a joke? It's a very cool look at one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century ...
MUSIC: Hail Columbia, "The General Jumped at Dawn" by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, "American Patrol" by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra
Lots of people know Roy Wood Jr. from "The Daily Show," but that's only the latest phase of his career. He's one of the great working road comics, who spent his 20s driving hundreds of thousands of miles to comedy gigs around the South and Midwest.
Now that the road has brought him to the DC Improv (headlining September 2-4) he tells us about his experiences, and how they shaped the comedy he's producing today.
The search for the funniest president continues! Warren Harding was amazingly popular in his day. Was he also amazingly funny?
We're joined by Sherry Hall, the site manager of the Harding Home Presidential Site in Marion, Ohio. She gives us insight into Harding's personal style (he considered himself a newspaper editor above all), his love of socializing, and his Midwestern humor -- the qualities that made him irresistable to a huge number of voters.
For all you scandal lovers, we also touch on the affairs and schlocky love letters that made Harding into a punchline when they were made public in 2014. And there's also some mention of Pokemon Go. Something for everyone!
MUSIC: Hail Columbia, "Beautiful Ohio" by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, "My Ohio Home" by Jean Goldkette and His Orchestra
The search for the funniest president continues! Andrew Jackson has a reputation for killing ... but not in a comedic sense. He actually murdered a dude. So if we're looking at the comedy of Jackson, how does that work, exactly?
Our guest is Michael Friedman, the composer and lyricist for the hit musical "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson." That production turned Jackson into an emo rock star, producing big laughs and amazing insights into the populist wave that Jackson rode into the White House. Michael helps us understand why Jackson CAN work as a comedic figure on stage -- even though much of Jackson's historical legacy can be seen as tragic.
MUSIC: Hail Columbia, "I'm Slappin' Seventh Avenue" by Duke Ellington's Famous Orchestra, "Tennessee Twilight" by the Eddie Condon Orchestra
The search for the funniest president continues! James Buchanan didn't have much to laugh about as president, what with that whole "Civil War" thing starting on his watch. But how much has that one huge stain warped our view of POTUS No. 15?
Patrick Clarke, the director of President James Buchanan's Wheatland, welcomes us into the historic home to talk about Buchanan's personality. JB enjoyed a four-decade career in politics that took him around the world, and strategic charm was a big part of his success. Find out what it looked like in practice!
MUSIC: Hail Columbia, "Buck Jumpin'" by Fats Waller and His Orchestra, "Pennsylvania 6-5000" by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra
Tony Roberts is one of the most purely entertaining headliners in the game ... and we've got him back headlining for a second year in a row (July 28-31).
On Friday morning, Tony and feature act Katrina Pope came by the club for another podcast interview ... or more accurately, we turned the mics on and Tony and Katrina took over. Lots of fun talking about hot dogs, live music, favorite comics and more.
Have a listen, then catch them at the club this weekend!
The search for the funniest president continues! Some presidents weren't all that funny in life ... but thanks to Twitter, they're cracking people up in death.
Yes, there are people out there using Twitter to assume the identity of dead presidents. And one of the funniest accounts is tied to one of the most obscure presidents, Millard Fillmore. Evan Marcus and Ira Lieman started @fillmoremillard in 2009 to speak on behalf of a guy who is six feet under the Buffalo tundra.
Who are they? Why are they doing this? What do they think of the actual Millard? And can we somehow hook them up with Alec Baldwin? All these answers and more on a fascinating and funny edition of Headliner of State!
MUSIC: Hail Columbia, "Off to Buffalo" by Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra, "Mason Flyer" by Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra