Next Monday, we’ll be exactly three months away from Election Day. THANK GOD. I don’t even care who wins anymore (note: may not be accurate), I just want the non-stop, largely useless coverage to go away, so we can focus on more important things, like…I dunno, football?
So before every other word that comes out of the Internet’s mouth is “president,” as opposed to every fourth word, which is where we’re at now, and we get sick of talking about middle-aged white guys (and Obama), we’ve put together a list of the funniest TV appearances from every United States president. Obviously, not every president could have been on TV — the whole “technology wasn’t invented yet” thing gets in the way of that — so we included fictional representations of, say, everyone from George Washington to FDR.
Also, with the exceptions of The Simpsons and Futurama, because of course, we decided a TV show can only be represented once. Cue up “Peaches” while scrolling.
#35. Andrew Johnson
Show: The Ordeal of Mr. Mudd
Description: This 1980 TV movie is about the farmer whose residence John Wilkes Booth fled to after he killed Abraham Lincoln (spoiler alert!). It’s very forgettable, much like Andrew Johnson himself. I couldn’t even bother looking up a picture of the guy. Think Mr. Mudd is related?
#34. William McKinley
Show: Freaks and Geeks
Description: It’s the name of the school on Freaks and Geeks, The Wonder Years, and Glee. That’s funny-ish?
#33. Andrew Jackson
Show: Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color
Episode: “Davy Crockett Goes to Congress”
Description: I just love the name of the episode. WORST. ERNEST. KNOCKOFF. EVER.
#32. James A. Garfield
Show: Garfield and Friends
Description: Presumably he, too, hated Mondays.
#31. Herbert Hoover
Show: All in the Family
Description: Repeat after me: “And you know who you were then, girls were girls and men were men/Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again…those were the days.” Archie and Edith were nostalgic for the good ol’ days when you could kill a president with DYNAMITE.
#30. James K. Polk
Show: Married…with Children
Episode: “Married…with Prom Queen”
Description: The bad: the name of the school only. The good: THE WHY.
#29. Ulysses S. Grant
Show: The Wild Wild West
Episode: “The Night of the Colonel’s Ghost”
Description: True, he’s no Kevin Kline and there’s no steampunk spider on the original show, but Roy Engel…actually, let’s leave it at that. He’s no Kevin Kline and there’s no stemapunk spider. Wicky-wicky-wicky.
#28. John Adams
Show: Boy Meets World
Episode: Seasons 1-4
Description: OK, I’m already cheating here, but William Daniels, a.k.a Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World, played John Adams in the movie 1776. John Adams was ALSO the name of the school Cory, Eric, etc. attended during high school. Hey, it was either him or Paul Giamatti.
#27. Millard Fillmore
Show: Kia commercial
Description: To commentate little-known President Millard Fillmore, Kia ran an “Unheard of” President’s Day sale “with unheard of deals” on a few of their cars. Plus, Millard Fillmore soap-on-a-rope! But Kia executives didn’t find the commercial amusing, and fired members of the marketing team behind it…wait, that’s not funny.
#26. Chester A. Arthur
Episode: “The Day the Earth Stood Stupid”
Description: “Chester A. Arthur fall down…” Classic Arthur.
#25. Lyndon B. Johnson
Show: Political ad
Description: Hahaha, Lyndon Johnson won a second term because of his famous “Daisy Girl” ad, which painted his opponent Barry Goldwater as some kind of monster, leading towards the vicious attack ads that are prevalent these days. Did I say, “hahaha”? I meant, “F*CKKKKK YOU.”
#24. Woodrow Wilson
Description: Our 28th president kvetching like Woody Allen because he’s on the $100,000 bill, while Ben Franklin appears on the $100? Now THAT’S comedy.
#23. Theodore Roosevelt
Show: Looney Tunes
Episode: “Ballot Box Bunny”
Description: Yosemite Sam is running for political office to rid the world of wascally wabbits, so Bugs decides to oppose him. Part of his campaign is to impersonate Teddy Roosevelt and “speak softly, but…carry a big stick,” to which Sam responds, “Well, I speak LOUDLY, and I carry a BIGGER stick! And I use it, too!”
#22. William Howard Taft
Show: Family Guy
Description: Peter views an “old time penny show” inside his local porn shop (that’s a thing people have, right?), where he sees a flapper girl doing naughty things — like voting…FOR TAFT. I prefer the peep show of Taft rubbing melted butter over his Chief Justice, but alas.
#21. Warren G. Harding
Show: Boardwalk Empire
Episode: “Hold Me in Paradise”
Description: Heh, Warren G. Harding, the “best of the second-raters,” was an adulterer, as seen on Boardwalk Empire when his mistress and bastard children try to enter a party that he and Nucky Thompson are attending. This in itself isn’t amusing, but I’ve always been fond of this quote: “It’s a good thing I am not a woman. I would always be pregnant. I can’t say no.”
#20. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Show: Robot Chicken
Episode: “That Hurts Me”
Description: For anyone who’s ever thought, “Wait, there are many more things to fear than fear itself, FDR,” you’re right, especially snakes, spiders, dying alone, clowns, etc.
#19. George Washington
Show: Deadliest Warrior
Episode: “George Washington vs. Napoleon Bonaparte”
Description: In 2011, Spike finally answered the question that’s been on everyone’s minds for years: who would win in a fight, George Washington or Napoleon Bonaparte? Washington and his scrappy soldiers were armed with swords, Brown Bess’, and six-pound cannons, while Bonaparte’s well-managed troops were in possession of sabers, Charleville muskets, and eight-pound cannons. The full episode can be found here, but after 5,000 simulated battles, the winner was: GEORGE WASHINGTON. U-S-A-! U-S-A! U-S-A!
#18. Martin Van Buren
Episode: “The Van Buren Boys”
Description: Martin Van Buren “himself” doesn’t appear, but he does have a gang. How can you tell if someone’s a Van Buren Boy, who are “just as mean as he was,” according to Kramer? Hold up eight fingers for the eighth president, which is something I’ve never forgotten since first seeing this episode. It’s as helpful as that “ate and ate, got sick on the floor, eight times eight is sixty-four” trick.
#17. George W. Bush
Show: That’s My Bush
Description: I bet Aaron Sorkin really hates That’s My Bush! There wasn’t nearly enough waxing philosophically about the state of country today, to say nothing of the lack of “hilariously” clumsy women.
#16. John F. Kennedy
Show: The Twilight Zone
Episode: “Profile in Silver”
Description: The Twilight Zone remake that aired from 1985-1989 is a pale impression of the original, but it was delightfully cruel, which is something we can all appreciate. In season one’s “Profile in Silver,” a Harvard professor from the year 2172 travels back in time to 1963, to observe the assassination of his relative, John F. Kennedy. I won’t run the ending, but needless to say, someone done get got.
#15. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Show: The Brak Show
Description: To get viewers excited for the premiere of The Brak Show, Cartoon Network ran a spot-on ad around Election Day that hilariously spoofed Dwight Eisenhower’s catchy “I Like Ad” commercial, right down to the marching elephant. Ike < Brak < Zorak.
#14. James Madison
Episode: “May 3, 2011”
Description: As part of the Fan Corrects series, a Conan watcher sent in a video scalding Mr. O’Brien for saying that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Constitution, a document that was, in fact, penned by James Madison. But Conan digs up some “rare footage” from 1787 that suggests otherwise.
#13. Barack Obama
Show: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Episode: “April 25, 2012”
Description: Went up five slots because Obama dropped the mic not quite like a boss, but close enough after slow jamming the news with Fallon and the Roots.
#12. Ronald Reagan
Show: The Boondocks
Episode: “The Passion of Reverend Ruckus”
Description: Self-hating black man Uncle “Bring Da” Ruckus has a dream in which he goes to Heaven. But not just any Heaven: White Heaven, where he meets Ronald Reagan, who tells Ruckus the only way he’ll be allowed beyond the pearly white gates is if he preaches the word of White Jesus. Also, if he wouldn’t mind passing out these unsold copies of Rappin’ Ronnie Reagan, that’d be cool, too.
#11. William Henry Harrison
Show: The Simpsons
Episode: “I Love Lisa”
Description: As a member of the “mediocre presidents,” whose faces “you won’t find…on dollars or on cents,” William Henry Harrison proudly boasts, “I died in 30 days!” Which he did.
#10. Harry S. Truman
Episode: “Roswell That Ends Well”
Description: The Planet Express crew goes back to the…past, where they crash land in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. While there, and as Fry sleeps with his grandmother, Dr. Zoidberg is captured and interrogated by President Truman, who uses “hot crackers!” as a expression and wisely admits, “If you’re here to make peace, surrender or be destroyed. If you’re here to make war, we surrender.”
#9. Abraham Lincoln
Show: Police Squad!
Episode: “A Substantial Gift (The Broken Promise)”
Description: “…with Rex Hamilton as Abraham Lincoln,” says the narrator before John Wilkes Booth shoots and misses our 16th President, who fires back.
#8. James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and Calvin Coolidge
Episode: “The Presidents”
Description: I couldn’t find any non-Simpsons clips for any of these totally not important Leaders of the Free World, so I’m grouping the losers together for the Animaniacs song, “The Presidents,” in which the Warners sing about every president up to Bill Clinton. It’s like 9/11 and the New York Giants winning two Super Bowls never happened.
#7. Bill Clinton
Show: The Arsenio Hall Show
Episode: June 1992
Description: What are the odds that CLIN-TON has a cardboard cutout of Arsenio doing that exact hand gesture with that exact facial expression in his sex dungeon? Or maybe he keeps Arsenio on retainer to be with him 24/7? You never know when Bubba’s gonna need to make some bub-bubs bounce.
#6. Grover Cleveland
Show: The Simpsons
Episode: “Two Bad Neighbors”
Description: I don’t why I find Abe saying “Grover Cleveland spanked me on two non-consecutive occasions” so funny, but I do. The man who wrote it, Ken Keeler, doesn’t either; according to TV Tropes, “When asked to explain why this trademark joke involving Cleveland was funny [he used a similar gag on Futurama], he replied, ‘Oh, it’s not funny!’ and then explained the facts about Cleveland for those not aware.”
#5. George H. W. Bush
Show: The Simpsons
Episode: “Two Bad Neighbors”
Description: If only Bush Senior had enjoyed beer and nachos…
#4. Richard Nixon
Show: Um, NFL Playoffs?
Description: It’s tempting to go with the 100% accurate interpenetration of Nixon from Futurama, but that show’s been mentioned enough, so let’s go with: in 1971, during the first round of the NFL playoffs with a 10-3 first half lead, Washington Redskins coach George Allen called a wide receiver reverse on the San Fransisco 49ers’ 8-yard-line. The play lost 13 yards and the Redskins would later lose the game. Afterward, a Redskins player told reporters that Allen, who was friends with Tricky Dick, received “executive orders” to call the ill-advised play, one he had never attempted before. Could be bullsh*t, but don’t you want to believe it?
#3. Thomas Jefferson
Show: 30 Rock
Episode: “Corporate Crush”
Description: After discovering he’s related to Thomas Jefferson (and has a dream in which Jack Donaghy plays the “Susan” creator on Maury), Fat Bitch star Tracy Jordan decides to make a feature film about the man, called simply Jefferson. He casts Source Award nominee Tracy Jordan, NAACP Image Award presenter Tracy Jordan, Academy Award watcher Tracy Jordan, and Grizz and Dot Com. Stellar ensemble lineup.
#2. Gerald Ford
Show: Saturday Night Live
Description: I’d take Chevy Chase’s intentionally clumsy non-impression of Gerald Ford over…well, I’d just take him over Fred Armisen’s awful Obama whatever-he’s-doing. Like, he could come back next season and do it. I don’t care that Ford’s been dead for six years.
#1. Jimmy Carter
Show: The Simpsons
Episode: “Marge in Chains”
Description: “Jimmy Carter!? He’s history’s greatest monster!”