The Comedy of Politics

When faux conservative commentator and comedian Stephen Colbert announced his candidacy for the presidency last week, it drew plenty of cheers and laughter.

The popular television show host quipped, "I'm running as both a Republican and a Democrat."

But inside the Beltway, some wondered if the joke could turn serious all too quickly, and questioned whether the run was legal.

"So long as he's seeking laughs, it's OK. But once he qualifies for a ballot, he's subject to regulation," said Karl Sandstrom of the Seattle, Wash., law firm Perkins Coie.

But Colbert isn't the first funnyman to run for the nation's highest office.

In 1928, Life magazine nominated cowboy-humorist Will Rogers on the Anti-Bunk ticket.

Rogers accepted and vowed, "If elected, I shall resign."

Even comediennes have sought the political spotlight.

Gracie Allen ran on the Surprise Party ticket in 1940.

"If you can't write your name, you can vote with an X," she campaigned.

Comedians taking on Washington has also translated into film. Just last year, Robin Williams starred in the movie "Man of the Year," about a fake newscaster's unlikely White House run.

And yet, some funnymen have taken the joke to an entirely new level. They've become serious about politics.

Former "Saturday Night Live" alumnus Al Franken is now running for the Senate in Minnesota.

"Satirist looks at a situation and sees all the inconsistencies and hypocrisies and absurdities, and cuts through all the bologna and gets to the truth, and I think that's pretty good training," he said on the campaign trail.