No matter your opinion of politicians' policies and their positions on the wars or how to fix the stagnant economy, it is almost universally accepted that their forays into comedy are destined to fail.
It's hard to make a joke when a good portion of your job description is to avoid offending anyone. But humor consultant and speechwriter Mark Katz, who wrote jokes for President Clinton for eight years, points out that when used properly, humor can be an important rhetorical tool that communicates to people in a unique away.
"Jokes are an essential staple of speeches," Katz said. "They allow people to say things that are hard to say, and humor does its best work on difficult topics."
While the number of presidential candidates who have made substantial gains in their likability by exercising their sense of humor is small, Katz says, the positive contributions of humor are worth the risk of a bad joke.
"People are naturally funny and politicians are a lot like people in many significant ways," he said. "Politicians understand that the right joke will get repeated in the next day's news cycle and the wrong joke will be printed in their obituary. It's a risk-reward ratio."
As for the flops, Katz said, "In debates, everything comes out at 100 mph. You recognize their attempts to go for humor but it doesn't quite connect. It's like a foul ball for a baseball player."
But in the world of politics, Katz said, using humor can be an invaluable way to express oneself and relate to the audience.
"A joke can be either lame or daring, and if you know what you're doing, and you're good at it, you can get away with saying things that otherwise could never be said in a million years," Katz added.
From Mitt Romney's joshing with waitresses in New Hampshire to Jon Huntsman's strange references about Kurt Cobain, here's a list of the most awkward, poorly delivered, unfunny and, at times, downright inappropriate jokes that occur when politicians stray from the teleprompter.
GOP candidate Herman Cain raised eyebrows during a campaign bus tour in Tennessee when he told a crowd that his immigration policy would be to construct an electric fence on the U.S.-Mexico border that would kill people trying to "sneak into America."
"We'll have a real fence, 20-feet high with barbed wire electrified with a sign on the other side that says, 'It can kill you,'" Cain told supporters at a Tennessee campaign rally Saturday.
This is not the first time Cain has toyed with the idea of an electrical fence along the border. Earlier this year at a stop in Iowa, Cain called for the United States to create its own "Great Wall of China," complete with an alligator-filled moat surrounding the border.
After facing backlash for his border-security ideas, Cain told NBC's David Gregory of "Meet the Press" that his comments were a "joke," adding that America "needs to get a sense of humor."
Whenever Mitt Romney goes off script, the result is usually both awkward and uncomfortable. The former Massachusetts governor played a joke on a group of waitresses at a New Hampshire diner in June, pretending that one of the servers grabbed his rear-end during a photo op. While posing for a photo, he lunged forward and said, "Oh, my goodness gracious."
Romney later clarified that he was "just teasing" the girls.
His gag at Mary Ann's diner, however, was not Romney's only awkward moment that day. He also stopped at Blake's Creamery and decided to offer the restaurant's owner another joke: "I saw the young man over there with eggs Benedict, with hollandaise sauce," he said. "And I was going to suggest to you that you serve your eggs with hollandaise sauce in hubcaps. Because there's no plates like chrome for the hollandaise."
While introducing himself to a group of unemployed workers later that month, Romney joked, "I should tell my story. I'm also unemployed." Although people laughed, the GOP candidate was criticized for the insensitivity of the joke. The Democratic National Committee immediately sent out a news release scolding Romney for joking about unemployment.
If the presidential candidate continues to hold his ground as one of the GOP front-runners, America should prepare itself for many more awkward, albeit entertaining, jokes and exchanges.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry's joke fell flat when he addressed the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in San Antonio in June.
The Latino audience was not amused when Perry joked about the pronunciation of a Hispanic official's last name. The Texas governor compared Jose Cuevas, a Hispanic appointee to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, to tequila brand Jose Cuervo, saying Cuevas' appointment was all the more appropriate because of his name.
Another one bites the dust. Perhaps a Jose Cuervo reference in a room full of Latinos was not the wisest decision.
GOP candidate Jon Huntsman heard silence when he went the Nirvana route at a CNN and Tea Party-sponsored debate in Tampa, Fla., Sept. 12. Huntsman addressed the Social Security debate between fellow candidates Rick Perry and Mitt Romney and interjected a one-liner referencing the late rock icon Kurt Cobain.
"Gov. Romney called [Social Security] a fraud in his book, No Apology. I don't know if that was written by Kurt Cobain or not," Huntsman said in what has since been interpreted as a strained comparison to Nirvana's record "All Apologies."
Huntsman's joke sparked many tweets after the GOP debate, including one from Nirvana co-founder Krist Novoselic: "Kurt Cobain Lives in the GOP presidential debate! Kurt supported Jerry Brown for president in 1992."
The former Utah governor later defended his Cobain reference. Despite the flop, we applaud his attempt to lighten the mood at a presidential debate.
Back in August, Tea Party darling Rep. Michele Bachmann made a remark to supporters in Florida that Hurricane Irene, which killed more than 20 people and caused billions of dollars of damage, and an East Coast earthquake were God's way of telling Washington to cut spending.
"I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians," the Minnesota congresswoman told an audience in Sarasota. "We've had an earthquake, we've had a hurricane. [God] said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?'"
Given that her remarks came only days after the hurricane pounded the Eastern seaboard, it was probably too soon for an Irene joke.
Later that week, Bachmann told reporters in Miami that she was joking, chalking her remarks up to her "great sense of humor."
President Obama's 2009 appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show" marked the talk show's first-ever taping with a sitting president. Obama joked with funnyman Jay Leno about his awful bowling skills despite practicing in the White House bowling alley.
"It's like the Special Olympics or something," the president said.
The next day, Tim Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, told "Good Morning America" that the president called him immediately after the taping to apologize for the language he used on the late-night talk show.