NEW YORK – With the timing, delivery and material of a headliner, comedian Ronald Reagan played the big room — the United States of America.
The former president's one-liners and classic quips are legendary — and they stand the test of time.
When Clint Eastwood wanted to be a mayor of Carmel, Calif., Reagan wondered: "What makes him think a middle-aged actor who's played with a chimp could have a future in politics?"
When running for president Reagan said, "Recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his."
This is A-list material for a guy considered by some to have been a B-list actor.
His humor was never mean-spirited and he often delivered self-deprecating jabs such as: "I have left orders to be awakened in case of a national emergency — even if I'm in a Cabinet meeting."
There's also the classic radio address mike check where he joked that the Soviet Union had been outlawed and we "begin bombing in five minutes."
He even made jokes about his own assassination attempt, telling Nancy he "forgot to duck."
He was the first "victim" on the Dean Martin Roasts back in 1973, and turned up two years later to roast his pal Bob Hope saying that Hope would be a great politician because when you add the 10 million troops and 100 million television viewers to the 27 people who've seen his movies, you have "a pretty sizeable constituency."
And occasionally, Reagan could be downright edgy: "I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born." Sounds more like Dennis Miller than Ronald Reagan.
On his own foibles Reagan shrewdly beat his opponents to the punchline. "I am not worried about the deficit. It's big enough to take care of itself."
And he got the last laugh. About his critics he once said, "According to the experts, I have exceeded my life expectancy by quite a few years. This is a source of annoyance to some."
And it was a source of humor and joy to others.