Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Hope had joke for everything

'I told Nixon to burn the (Watergate) tapes. He told me to burn my golf clubs.'

By Connie Cass
The Associated Press

War, terrorism and stock market slumps have been unlikely fodder for decades' worth of reassuringly goofy jokes. The Library of Congress has a half-million of them, courtesy of Bob Hope.

Visitors can touch a computer screen to search through digitally scanned images of more than 85,000 pages of jokes, some with Hope's penciled notations, all indexed by subject.

"I don't understand terrorists," he quipped 10 years before the Sept. 11 attacks. "How could anyone get so angry, so involved, so worked up about anything? ... I mean outside of golf."

Another vintage riff begins, "The airlines are really getting security-conscious. You can still fly, but they won't tell you where you're going."

And today's investors can relate to Hope's humor from 1966: "Three of my stocks went off the financial page, into the help-wanted section.

"What bothered me was the speed of the drop - I called my broker last week and his busy signal cost me $8,000."

These are among the virtual contents of Hope's famous "joke file" - rows of filing cabinets lovingly maintained in a fireproof vault next to his Toluca Lake, Calif., home.

Hope donated the 500,000 or so jokes, and memorabilia dating to his vaudeville days, for an exhibit that opened three years ago in the library's Jefferson Building.

The jokes are the work of more than 100 writers who worked for Hope. He performed many on radio or TV or in live appearances; others didn't make the initial cut but were set aside for future reference.

Hope's file covers enough subjects and moods to whip up a timely act anytime. Presidents were a favorite topic. Some one-liners:

Dwight Eisenhower: "I happen to know why he's running for president. It's the only way he can get out of the Army. If he slices the budget like he slices a (golf) ball, the nation has nothing to worry about."

John F. Kennedy: "Eisenhower said, 'Congratulations on your victory.' And Kennedy replied, 'I had to win. It's so tough these days to find a place that'll take children.' "

Lyndon Johnson: "You can tell he used to be rancher. He squeezes Republicans like he's milking a cow."

Richard Nixon: "I told Nixon to burn the (Watergate) tapes. He told me to burn my golf clubs."

Gerald Ford: "It's not hard to find Gerry Ford on a golf course - you just follow the wounded. I love playing golf with Gerald Ford. He makes me feel like I'm back performing in a war zone."

Jimmy Carter: "Carter wants to go to Washington. He'll feel right at home there - he was raised on a nut farm."

Ronald Reagan: "Some people are claiming that Ronald Reagan is too old to be president. But I like Ronnie. He's smart, he's honest, and he's the only candidate who calls me 'Sonny.' "

George Bush: "The Los Angeles Times gave George Bush a 'C' on his first 100 days in office. No one knows what Dan Quayle got. He claims he lost his report card on his way home from the White House."

Bill Clinton: "Clinton loves to make long speeches. In fact, this will be the first inaugural address with an intermission."

John Kiesewetter contributed.

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