Memories of 41st president’s humorous side
WASHINGTON — Memories of George H.W. Bush’s underappreciated sense of humor drew laughter and brought smiles to the sorrowful mourning of the death of America’s 41st president.
Presidential historian Jon Meacham recounted how comedian Dana Carvey once said that the key to doing his iconic impersonation of Bush was to mimic “Mr. Rogers trying to be John Wayne.”
That prompted chuckles that rang from the vaulted arches inside the Washington National Cathedral.
Meacham said that while campaigning and asking for votes in New Hampshire, Bush mistakenly grabbed the hand of a department store mannequin. “When he realized his mistake, he said ‘Never know. Gotta ask.’ ”
The former president, who died Friday, often found his tongue twisted and routinely uttered funny one-liners.
Looking ahead to the 1988 election, Bush once said: “It’s no exaggeration to say that the undecideds could go one way or the other.” And Meacham said that late in his presidency, Bush’s tongue ran amok when he said: “We are enjoying sluggish times, but we’re not enjoying them very much.”
The former president’s eldest son, former President George W. Bush, got in on the act, telling the packed cathedral that his father got the last laugh because he chose former Sen. Alan Simpson to be one of the people to speak at Wednesday’s ceremony.
Simpson said his friend never lost his sense of humor.
“He had a very serious flaw known by all close to him: He loved a good joke — the richer the better,” Simpson said. “And he threw his head back and gave that great laugh, but he never, ever could remember a punchline. And I mean never.”
Comic Dana Carvey, left, shows President George H.W. Bush how to imitate himself at the White House in 1992.