Gardner, a comedy writer for TV performers (the Smothers Brothers) and politicians (Robert Kennedy), offers a serious, entertaining look at humor's role in the presidency since John F. Kennedy. With charm and wit now seen as crucial to winning elections, these presidents have used one-liners and anecdotes in speech-making, with varying success, Gardner maintains. The most adeptJFK and Ronald Reaganhave laughed away serious issues, offering quips instead of a ``no comment'' to sensitive questions. The author shows how each president's brand of humor (Gerald Ford's good-naturedness, LBJ's crudity) reflected his personality and character, with Jimmy Carter ``suspicious'' of wit and Richard Nixon simply incapable of it. Besides many examples of presidential witticisms, the book includes interesting observations by Bob Orben, Landon Parvin and other White House gag writers. Photos not seen by PW. (September 29)
Best known as a humorist (e.g., Who's in Charge Here? ), Gardner has also had experience as a political writer. In this semi-scholarly work, he surveys the use of humor by presidents Kennedy through Reagan, and concludes that ``humor is a form of voter seduction that is more insidious than dirty tricks.'' This is a lively book, liberally laced with anecdotes and one-liners, but there is also a good deal of astute political analysis. It will have a wide appeal, and it can help prepare us all for the 1988 campaigns. Recommended for public and academic libraries. Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, Pa.