Most of the time, the White House is no joke. But an off-beat new exhibit at the George W. Bush Presidential Center reveals the pranks, quips, and humorous happenings that have lightened the mood in the Oval Office throughout history. “Liberty & Laughter: The Lighter Side of the White House” opened Thursday, March 3 and runs through December 31 at the museum on the SMU campus in Dallas.
The special exhibit promises entertaining first-family anecdotes, interactive multimedia, and amusing artifacts that will unveil presidential pranks and inside jokes, “while awards to the wittiest, quippiest, most mischievous president and first lady will grace the pursuit of happiness walk,” says a press release.
“‘Liberty & Laughter’ shows the importance of humor in a democracy,” says museum director Brig. Gen. Patrick X. Mordente in the release. “We are free to express our thoughts about our leaders in many ways — sometimes as cartoon caricatures. This exhibit reminds us that our presidents are real people with a sense of humor that helped them in their important job of leading our country.”
(To be clear, the exhibit covers more than “Dubya’s” White House, although God bless ’em if the word “strategery” appears somewhere.)
Among the jocular historical documents, photographs, and artifacts on display will be:
- First lady correspondence with actors and personalities like Mary Tyler Moore and Marge Simpson.
- President Ronald Reagan’s joke notecards.
- President Bill Clinton’s sunglasses from The Arsenio Hall Show, and one of his many saxophones.
- A hand-written humorous verse President Franklin D. Roosevelt composed to the three press associations.
“Visitors will experience humor through cartoons and caricatures, learn the savvy ways presidents have added levity to debates and interactions with the press, and laugh their way through a presidential talent show,” the release says. “A lively mirth-matching quiz will adorn one gallery while another will offer the chance to copycat famous presidential impersonators.”
Throughout the exhibit, organizers say, there will be reminders from the likes of President George Washington, who once said, “It is assuredly better to go laughing than crying thro’ the rough journey of life.”
More information and tickets, which include access to the museum’s permanent exhibit, are available here.