Comedian-in-Chief: President Obama Gets More Laughs Than Jay Leno

For some politicians that is easy, and you don't have to look very far past "Saturday Night Live" skits to realize that former Vice President Al Gore is a stiff, Vice President Joe Biden sticks his foot in his mouth, and former President George W. Bush messes up words and is a fake cowboy.

Schnure said embracing those stereotypes can actually bring about the opposite perception. Want to make people think you aren't a stiff? If you are Gore, then loosen up just a little bit and make jokes about being a stiff.

"You can diffuse issues, you can change perceptions," he said.

When politicians turn the one-liners away from themselves and toward their colleagues, they run the risk of packing too powerful of a punch.

"Humor is a weapon that if you wield on others, you first need to wield on yourself," said one writer. "Because of the position of power these people hold, everything they do or say is amplified so they have to be careful."

At the White House Correspondents Association dinner last year, Obama pointed out that he has a lot in common with House Minority Leader John Boehner, who is known for his bronze glow even in the dead of winter.

"We have a lot in common. He is a person of color," Obama said. "Although not a color that appears in the natural world."

The line got hearty laughs, but in hindsight, some writers thought it maybe was too pointed a jab.

"The president has a lot of power and zingers do not work because they have too much power behind it," Parvin said. "If a president makes fun of himself, he says, 'I am just like you.'"

Comedy Helps Thaw Political Stalemates

Humor is often a key way for lawmakers to diffuse a tense political situation.

In 2002, then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was under fire from Republicans who said he was blocking President Bush's legislative agenda.

At the Gridiron Club dinner that spring, Daschle took the criticism and turned it into a punch line aimed at him.

"Hi, my name's Tom. I'm an obstructionist," he said to laughter.

Daschle added that during the dinner Bush asked him to pass the salt, but quipped "I can't bring myself to pass anything."

The routine may not have completely thawed the partisan chill between the Bush White House and the Democratic majority but it did get a laugh.

"He really lanced that boil," one veteran writer said of Daschle's zinger. "That's what humor allows you to do."

Last spring the Obama White House was under fire for the authorization of an Air Force One photo-op that terrified New York City area residents who saw the low flying plane.

Obama used his remarks at the White House Correspondents dinner to admit that mistakes were made and tried to jokingly pass the buck.

"Now Sasha and Malia aren't here tonight because they're grounded," he said of his two daughters.

"You can't just take Air Force One on a joy ride to Manhattan. I don't care whose kids you are. We've been setting some ground rules here," he said. "They're starting to get a little carried away."

But while humor can be a great tool to diffuse political tensions and recast a narrative, a bad joke can also exacerbate partisanship and offend.

In 2004, President Bush did a slide show presentation of photos from inside the White House and poked fun at himself and the elusive search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

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