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DC Improv podcasts

Whenever we chat with a comedian or explore the world of comedy, you can find it (FOR FREE!) right here. If you just want to see our interviews with comedians, check out the page for The Other Side episodes.

Headliner of State: Martin Van Buren (April 18, 2016)

Martin Van Buren more or less invented the notion of professional political parties, then used his amazing creation to get Andrew Jackson elected president. When Jackson retired, MVB succeeded him in the White House. Did the OG of American politics use humor to grease the skids? James Bradley, a co-editor of Van Buren's papers, tells us.


Headliner of State: Franklin Roosevelt (April 11, 2016)

FDR rewrote the rule book for presidential behavior ... including the use of humor. His deeply personal connections with voters, reporters and fellow world leaders produced a lot of laughs (and also a bunch of government programs, but who's counting?). Bill Harris of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum helps us get inside Roosevelt's head.


Headliner of State: Lyndon Johnson (March 31, 2016)

When presenting himself to the public, Lyndon Johnson tried to be the stiff, serious model of a president. But as a politician, LBJ had a remarkable gift for humor. Many of his friends (and foes) remember him as the ultimate storyteller. Our guest is the great playwright Robert Schenkkan, the man behind "All the Way."


Headliner of State: Rutherford Hayes (March 28, 2016)

Rutherford was a good lawyer, a fine soldier and a world-class beard-grower. But was he also the funniest president? Kristina Smith of the Hayes Presidential Library and Museums (located in beautiful Fremont, Ohio) get us acquainted with the 19th president.


Headliner of State: William McKinley (March 21, 2016)

Chris Kenney, the director of education at the McKinley Presidential Library and Museum in Canton, Ohio, gives us a crash course on McKinley's personality and shares a few stories showing the lighter side of a very successful politician.


Headliner of State: William Henry Harrison (March 14, 2016)

Harrison is the closest thing we have to a punchline president. After a lifetime of public service, he became the commander-in-chief, then died one month later. But does that make Harrison the funniest president? Our guest this week is Megan Amram, a fantastic comedy writer and Twitter savant who worked on "Parks and Recreation." She was the lead writer on the 2015 episode titled "William Henry Harrison," so she's actually given some serious thought to the comedic value of the ninth president.


Headliner of State: Barack Obama (March 7, 2016)

Two great guests stop by the Improv to break down the humor of the 44th president. Brad Jenkins worked in the White House Office of Public Engagement as the liaison to the creative community. David Litt was a presidential speechwriter whose duties included taking the lead on the White House Correspondents’ Association speeches. Today, they’re the Washington office of the comedy juggernaut Funny or Die. We talk about the president’s natural humor, and some of the revolutionary ways the Obama administration has used humor as a communications strategy for the digital age. Not to be missed!


Headliner of State: Ulysses Grant (February 29, 2016)

Sure, Ulysses Grant saved American democracy for all future generations. But was he FUNNY? To get the answer, we’re talking to Grant himself -- with the assistance of Kenneth J. Serfass, who does a “first person living history impression” of the president.


Headliner of State: Calvin Coolidge (February 22, 2016)

There’s no question that Calvin Coolidge was funny – stories of his wit have survived the test of time. But what makes him fascinating is the way he used his natural humor strategically. Journalist / author / historian Amity Shlaes shares her insight into the humor of “Silent Cal.”


Headliner of State: John Adams (February 15, 2016)

Take a little bit of Seinfeld, then mix in some Don Rickles, some David Sedaris and an encyclopedic knowledge of political philosophy. That might the recipe for John Adams – our second president, and possibly the funniest of the Founding Fathers. Amanda Norton of the Massachusetts Historical Society is our guest.


Headliner of State: Richard Nixon (February 8, 2016)

Richard Nixon wasn't a cut-up, but few people inspired more laughs. Does he deserve a shot at the title? This week's guest is Patric Verrone, a writer/producer for "Futurama," the TV show that made Nixon's head the president of Earth. We're talking about Nixon's second life as a cartoon, the qualities that made Nixon such an easy target, and Nixon's role in changing the very nature of presidential humor. To quote Zapp Brannigan, "Baby, it'll blow your mind."


Headliner of State: Andrew Johnson (February 1, 2016)

Andrew Johnson overcame crippling poverty to become ... well, the first impeached president. Did Johnson laugh in the face of adversity? Did his humor (or lack thereof) help or hurt him during his presidency? And should he get credit for one of the funniest ceremonies in American political history? Our expert is David O. Stewart, the author of "Impeached" (and several other excellent books).


Headliner of State: James Madison (January 25, 2016)

"This is a guy who's exceptionally smart and exceptionally confident ..." But is he funny? Christian Cotz, the director of education and visitor engagement at Montpelier -- Madison's awesome home in Orange County, Virginia -- helps us answer all the big questions. Could Madison work a room? Was he a straight man for Dolley? And did he ever get tired of the short jokes?


Headliner of State: James Monroe (January 18, 2016)

We travel to Fredericksburg to talk about president No. 5. Our guide is Daniel Preston of the University of Mary Washington -- the man in charge of editing Monroe's papers. We're talking about JM's personality, "public personas" in the 19th century, and how exactly you can get to know a guy who's been dead for 185 years.


Headliner of State: Bill Clinton (January 11, 2016)

For our debut, speechwriter and humorist Mark Katz helps us look at Bill Clinton. Mark was the writer / editor / coordinator for Clinton's speeches at the "Silly Season" dinners: the White House Correspondents Association, the Gridiron Club, and so forth. His memoir about those years, "Clinton and Me," has fantastic insights into Clinton's personality, the art of speechwriting and humor in general.


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