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

"Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere," Bush joked as a photo of him on his hands and knees appeared on large screens. "Nope, no weapons over there ... maybe under here?"

Though the audience laughed at the time, the reaction after the dinner was not as charitable.

Democrats in Washington jumped on the president for the bit, saying it was insensitive when American men and women had died in Iraq as the search for WMD turned up nothing.

"You always want to be wary of bad taste," one writer said.

Politicians Prep for Routines

Most politicians will hire someone who has experience in this field, rather than just rely on their own staff. Schnure and fellow veteran writer Jeff Nussbaum formed "The Humor Cabinet," which Schnure joked was like a "brain trust" that politicians could turn to when they are asked to deliver a comedy speech.

Politicians prepare for these kinds of speeches much like they would prepare for a policy speech ? with brainstorming sessions with staff, drafts, revisions and rehearsals where special attention is paid to delivery and timing.

The jokes can come from a wide range of sources. One writer said the first step is to give the politician a document with "five times as many jokes as they will need."

"There's usually a pretty fun session where they go through and say, 'love it,' 'hate it,' and there are some there just for their amusement," he said.

There will be discussions about concepts -- do you want to use a slide show of photographs or video? Will you incorporate a surprise guest or stick to a script of one liners?

The Science of Political Joke Making

No matter the format, several writers said that the key thing was for the speech to have an ongoing theme that ties it all together and for the jokes to be topical.

Once the jokes are written and the speech is put together, then it moves to the delivery phase.

One writer said that the jokes are tested on staff first, to see what passes and what falls flat, and then a politician will bring home the act to test it out on friends and family, who will be more inclined to offer constructive and honest criticism.

Parvin said he and Bush had it down to a science.

"Sit down, go over drafts, rehearsal on Friday and then again on Saturday before the event," he said. "We had a history."

Timing is everything and even though politicians are used to delivering speeches from a teleprompter or text, delivering jokes at the right pace can be a daunting challenge.

Biden delivered remarks at this year's Radio-Television Correspondents Association dinner, and he used a slide show of photographs to enhance his jokes. But the slides came up before he delivered the punch line, causing him to grumble about the teleprompter operator and step on his own jokes.

With YouTube and 24-hour cable, the comedy routines are no longer just about the audience in the room but the audience watching at home.

Parvin said that a successful outing can have impact beyond the Beltway elites chuckling in person, and a writer needs to consider that audience as well.

"When you do these things you would be surprised the worldwide coverage they get," he said.

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