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Hey, Bill O'Reilly and David Gergen! You Should Really Hear Abe Lincoln's Fart Joke

A quick rundown of presidential jokes that might have violated the "majesty" of the office.

Photo Credit: Basileus/


To the great shame of this once-proud nation, President Barack Obama  went on a jokeman’s joke show and did jokes. All right-thinking Americans — which is to say, a number of white men above the age of 60 — were horrified to see the leader of the free world on “Between Two Ferns,” the web-based faux talk show hosted by “Hangover” star and alt-comedian Zach Galifianikis. Whatever happened to the dignity of the office of the presidency?

Serial presidential adviser David Gergen takes it even further: What about the majesty of the office?

“Majesty” is an interesting word, considering that it is generally used to refer to European monarchs. It is used because a Holy Roman Emperor thought the term “highness” wasn’t, well, majestic enough. Referring to “the majesty” of the office of the presidency is just a really good way to reveal your deeply ingrained antipathy to democracy.

Still, Gergen has a point! It is difficult to imagine legendary dead white men of the pre-Internet age appearing on a streaming video comedy program. I bet none of those guys ever even sent an email! Maybe Gergen is disconcerted because time is an unceasing march into an inevitably unknowable future, and the America of his youth is almost a different country. Or maybe old presidents were just more dignified and majestic than this current one, with his jokes.

There are a few presidents he left off his brief list. Perhaps he remembered Richard Nixon’s famous “Laugh-In” cameo. Or the time Bill Clinton, a president Gergen actually worked for, appeared on Arsenio Hall’s talk show and played a saxophone while wearing goofy sunglasses. And there was Lyndon Johnson, who was basically  an obscenity made animate. Though of the presidents Gergen can’t imagine doing this, there was the time Ronald Reagan starred in a film opposite a chimpanzee. (Not to mention the time  this happened.) Perhaps Gergen would argue that those men did those undignified thingsbefore they assumed the office of the presidency. Once they occupied the Oval Office, all were models of propriety and dignity. Except Clinton, obviously. And I guess Kennedy.

Still, those men did did not do undignified public joking!  I mean, there was Reagan’s hilarious “we begin bombing in five minutes” joke, which sorta freaked out the Soviet armed forces for a few minutes, but that was a very dignified joke because it was directed against commies.

Even Gergen’s dudgeon can’t compare, in terms of inadvertent ridiculousness, with last night’s commentary from Bill O’Reilly, which hinged on the unfalsifiable argument that Abraham Lincoln would not have appeared on “Between Two Ferns.” Not just because Abraham Lincoln died (he was shot at the theater, where  he was enjoying a comedic farce) a full century before the creation of the world’s first computer network, but because Abraham Lincoln  understood the weight and seriousness of his office.

“All I can tell you is, Abe Lincoln would not have done it,” said O’Reilly, the author of a best-selling book on Abraham Lincoln that has been widely panned by historians. ”There comes a point when serious times call for serious action,” he continued. “We’re a divided nation which…is in decline.”

“[Obama] needs to be aware — he needs to be aware — of how his enemies perceive him,” O’Reilly continued. “Because I believe the testing of America is just getting started.”

The problem with the “Lincoln wouldn’t have done this” argument, though, is that Lincoln is just about the worst possible choice of historic presidents to use when you’re trying to attack a president for unseriousness. Abraham Lincoln was a notorious jokester.Books were published, during his presidency, purporting to be made up of his comical anecdotes and stories. (Many of the supposed Lincoln jokes were apocryphal, but, equally importantly, many of them weren’t.) Here’s one representative  Lincoln joke. Here are  eight more, including this honest-to-god fart joke: