Ronald Reagan didn’t need Jay Leno to write jokes for him. The man was funny. Whether it was a well-timed quip or self-deprecating line (see the “I’d rather be in Philadelphia” line to ER doctor the day he was shot), Reagan knew how to use humor to make his point.
Perhaps his most famous and effective line came during a 1984 Presidential debate. Walter Mondale and the usual anti-GOP forces had been hammering away at Reagan since the DNC convention in San Francisco. Reagan was portrayed as “out of touch” and “too old.”
During the debate, Reagan delivered the perfect line. It was a knockout punch. Mondale himself laughed hysterically.
Humor is a powerful tool. It allows you to not only disarm your opponent and rally your side, but it wins converts from the other side. Watch this exchange with Sam Donaldson of ABC News:
Finally, Reagan’s sense of humor earned him the respect of funny people. Check out this classic skit from Saturday Night Live set during the Iran/Contra era; The late, great Phil Hartman portrays Reagan in a way that comes across a flattering, regardless of your political point of view: