Ronald Reagan, Stand-Up Reagan

Bill Wasik

By Bill Wasik

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Stand-Up Reagan

Ronald Reagan

A forty-minute pastiche of President Reagan's jokes from the stump, Stand-Up Reagan has much to offer both the student of history and the comedy connoisseur. For the historian, it goes a long way toward explaining why this fiercely ideological president has somehow been remembered as a unifying figure, an affably folksy statesman. For the stand-up fan, it shows the kind of laughs you can get if you “kill” when you're President of the United States: after a couple of the jokes (the first one, for example, about the Soviet Union — remember that?) the crowd's blood-curdlingly ferocious screams surpass anything ever achieved by the Diceman.

An album that has much to offer both the student of history and the comedy connoisseur.

The biggest surprise is that the jokes are sort of funny, in the way that one's grandfather's jokes were sort of funny, and indeed for those of us of a certain age, the two sets of jokes tended to run together. Besides the jabs at the Soviets (his best material, really), Reagan's comedy tended not to have any political content; it generally involved some plain American — farmers and preachers were his favorite protagonists — involved in some folksy situation that played out over a long, smoothly told set-up until it culminated in a single, inoffensive punchline. Most of his jokes were just jokes that he'd heard from others, the sorts of jokes that were passed around among men of his generation, and their appeal to Reagan's audiences seemed not to be diminished by the fact that the audience had heard them before, often from Reagan himself.