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Reagan the Joker; Reagan the Joke

February 17, 2014 | by


Ronald Reagan on a whistle-stop train tour, 1984


Not long ago President Reagan, who should be remembered only for his jokes because his jokes I think are really very good, was asked how it was he could have managed eight years as president and still look so wonderful. Did you see this?




It was in the Times. He said, “Let me tell you the story about the old psychiatrist being admired by a young psychiatrist who asks, ‘How come you still look so fresh, so free of anxiety, so little worn by care, when you’ve spent your entire life sitting as I do every day, getting worn out listening to the miseries of your patients?’ To which the older psychiatrist replies, ‘It’s very simple, young man. I never listen.’ ” Such sublime, wonderful, and sincere self-revelation on the part of Reagan! In spite of all one’s horror at what he has done or failed to do as President, it takes one’s breath away with admiration.

—Harold Bloom, the Art of Criticism No. 1

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I’ve often said that someone trying to write satirically in this country faces the problem of writing something sufficiently bizarre so that it might not come true while his article is on the presses. The Reagan Administration was difficult that way. Once, at a reception for big-city mayors in Washington, President Reagan was approached by his own Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and the president said, Hello, Mr. Mayor, how are things in your city? Now, what does that leave for me?

—Calvin Trillin, the Art of Humor No. 3



  1. Ed Muneer | February 17, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Of course we should ignore the much lesser reality of Reagan’s legacy, such as his ending the Cold War without warfare. What a pompous, self-important writer. Amused by the “should be remembered only for” clarifier.

  2. James | February 17, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    And the jokes just keep on coming!

  3. Paul R | February 17, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    It was actually the tail end of the Carter administration and the beginning of the Clinton administration that ended the Cold War. Reagan actually extended the Cold War, see?

  4. Pat | February 17, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Yeah Eddie, Reagan ended the Cold War by executive order or was it just asking Gorbachev to “tear down” the wall that did it?

  5. Joe Carlson | February 18, 2014 at 12:07 pm

  6. Deborah Parker Provoost | February 18, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Such certainty is frightening. Black & White. Black & White. Help!

  7. Mack Hall, HSG | February 18, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Oh, please, Dan; THE PARIS REVIEW has no connection with Paris, publishes “free verse” (snicker), and resorts to tired stereotypes of President Reagan as space-filler. This sort of content might awe sophomores whose literature is limited to THE CATCHER IN THE RYE and ON THE ROAD. You can do better. You have done better.

  8. koldo | February 15, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    I think the end of the Cold War should be credited to Gorbachev instead…

  9. Ignatz Farquad | February 15, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Our greatest comedy president. The rest, a pathetic mess.

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