By Rosemary Ford
"There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."
"Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB/GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country."
"I'll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office."
You probably recognize these famous quotes as "Bushisms" — statements made by President George W. Bush and statements he would probably like people to forget.
But his legendary malapropisms, mispronunciations and downright poor word choices have made Bush one of the most beloved heroes of the comedy world. Comedians are lamenting the end of the Bush comedic era, and still figuring out how to make fun of incoming president Barack Obama.
"I think I am going to quit comedy. I am going to hang it up," said Methuen comedian Erin Livingston Carroll, a Greater Boston comedy circuit regular.
"Seriously, I am really going to miss him," she said of Bush. "He kills me."
Haverhill comedian Ellen Moschetto thinks poking fun at President Obama will be a lot tougher, and comedians will have to reach much further for laughs.
"Barack doesn't have a regional accent or a twang," she said. "And he can pronounce 'nuclear.'"
That's part of why many comedians are a little sad, even as others throw parties to celebrate the new presidency.
"You know the guy that threw a shoe at him in Iraq?" Moschetto asked. "I hear the Yankees just drafted him for $10 million — I will miss that."
Beverly comedian Dave Rattigan, who will be doing stand-up comedy on Jan. 24, at the Claddagh in Lawrence, thinks comedians will tread carefully when razzing the new leader of the free world.
"Because he's black, Obama's presidency is going to present a real test to the American funny bone," Rattigan said. "Every president gets a honeymoon period, where even the jokes are nice. But once he's been in office for awhile, I hope comics and comedy writers will go after Obama just as they would anybody else — and not hold back for the sake of being PC."
Mike Smith, a comedian and host who appears regularly at The Barn in Amesbury, has confidence someone will break the silence soon.
"Someone will open the door and then he'll be fair game like everybody else," said the Salem, N.H., resident. "If you are going to be out front like that, you know people are going to say things."
Though Obama may seem dull now, Rattigan said he thinks the new president may surprise us.
"He seems like an earnest and smart guy, without the dubious past and obvious clumsiness of W. Bush or the prodigious appetites of Clinton, which were known, to a certain extent, before they took office," Rattigan said. "Comics had a similar problem with Bush the elder, until he raised taxes and threw up on the Japanese prime minister. That's why when comics make fun of Obama, for now all most of them are saying is that he has big ears."
Though the jokes may be harder to come by, as Rattigan points out, the humor is there. "You've got to remember that while Obama will be America's first African-American president, there are an awful lot of people who think our first African-American president was either Morgan Freeman or Martin Luther King Jr. A lot of them are the same people who think the Massachusetts governor is Patrick Deval," he said.
And if all else fails, there's always Obama's advisers.
"I think we will learn more things about Joe Biden to latch on to," Moschetto said.
What Late Night is saying
"See, I got to admit, as a comedian, I'm gonna miss President Bush. Because Barack Obama is not easy to do jokes about. He doesn't give you a lot to go on. See, this is why God gave us Joe Biden." — Jay Leno
"Oprah Winfrey just announced that she's planning to attend Barack Obama's inauguration. Oprah says she's very excited to see Obama become the second-most powerful person in the world." — Conan O'Brien
"There was a little confusion at the meeting there at the White House when President Bush was told that Obama was coming. He said 'Oh, you mean we caught him?'" — David Letterman
"Did you see Obama's news conference today? Wow. I have to say, nice to see adults back in charge of government. The White House press corps, you could tell, they were ecstatic. It's been years since they've heard a complete sentence." — Bill Maher
"Barack Obama was joined on stage by Bruce Springsteen in Ohio on Sunday. There was one tense moment when somebody in the audience yelled out, 'Born in the USA!' And Obama said, 'For the last time, yes, damnit, I was!" — Jimmy Kimmel
"You know, do you realize this is our first black president since the first season of '24'?" — Jay Leno