Who Were the Funniest Leaders in World History?

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Humor was an excellent tool for world leaders throughout history. Humor gains the attention of your audience and shows you are humble. It helps the discussion of serious topics. Abraham Lincoln used humor in law and politics. Winston Churchill’s sharp wit helped Great Britain to win World War II. Religious leaders (including Jesus!) have also used humor. Some funny women leaders were Catherine the Great and Golda Meir (Israel). 

How Humor Improves Leadership 

“What are you, some kind of comedian?” 

“Yes, I am! I am also a leader.”  

A good leader can use humor to their advantage in multiple ways

Humor can be an excellent way to gain the attention of your target audience. It can help get them on your side. A person who can handle hecklers shows they can think on their feet. The hecklers might be impressed!

People use humor to show they do not take themselves too seriously. It can soften the blow of even harsh attacks. We can discuss serious topics in a lighthearted way. Our amusement can also help us remember information and lessons a leader is trying to teach us. 

People often use humor as a safe way to target people with a higher status.  A funny person is more likable. They impress people with their intelligence and skills at mimicry. 

Mean-spirited humor can also be a wickedly on-point way to criticize people.  

Benjamin Franklin: American Original 

Benjamin Franklin was America’s original jokester. 

He wrote the very witty Poor Richard’s Almanack. He was a skillful diplomat and spy. Old Ben cautioned: “Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.” 

The struggling new United States always needed money. As Ben noted, “If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some.” Alexander Hamilton is on the twenty. Franklin is on the hundred!  And, remember, “He that lieth down with Dogs, shall rise up with Fleas.” 

Abraham Lincoln: Down Home Humor    

Abraham Lincoln is at the top of the list of the funniest presidents in United States history.

Lincoln got the attention of audiences at campaign rallies and in the courtroom. His often risque humor appealed to ordinary voters. He used colorful stories and metaphors to make his points.

The Great Emancipator also used humor in a self-effacing way. People thought he was funny-looking.  How did he proclaim his honesty? “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” Lincoln carefully considered everything he said and wrote. He knew the value of humor.

Other American presidents also used humor to their advantage. Ronald Reagan was an actor before he entered politics. Reagan used humor to promote a likable persona. 

When his age was an issue, he quipped that he would not take advantage of the age of his younger opponent.  Success in American politics often requires at least faking a sense of humor.  

Winston Churchill: (At times Drunken) Wit 

Prime ministers in Great Britain are required to stand up and answer questions from the members. The questioning is often harsh.  Humor is an excellent way to hold your ground. 

The height of Winston Churchill’s long career in government was his leadership during World War II. Churchill was an excellent writer and orator. He was also often very amusing.

Two things Churchill was famous for were his drinking and putdowns. A woman once accused him, quite insulted, of being drunk. Churchill did not deny it.  “And you, madam,” responded Churchill, “are ugly. But I shall be sober tomorrow.” Just Churchill, being Churchill. 

He was blunt and outspoken. He did not bend to the will of others. His humor expressed this. 

Jesus: Religion and Humor Can Mix 

Many comedians are Jewish. 

Jews have had a sense of humor about life since biblical times. There was this poor schlub named Jonah. God wanted Jonah to help an enemy of the Jews. Jonah tried so hard to get out of doing so. He even wound up in a big fish for three days. 

Jesus had a good sense of humor. It helps when you are starting a new religion with a bunch of clueless guys. His righthand man Peter was quite thickheaded. Jesus called him Simon (“rock”). Peter was quite unreliable. Jesus was using irony by calling him “steady like a rock.”

Is God the ultimate leader with a sense of humor? The world is regularly a funny place. 

Women Leaders 

There has long been a bias against women being funny. Women (and many men) realize this is silly. Women leaders throughout the ages have had a sense of humor.

Claudia, the daughter of Emperor Augustus, was everyone’s sarcastic daughter. Her dad complimented her modest outfit. She wore something less modest the day before. “Today”, she said, “I dressed to be looked at by my father, yesterday to be looked at by my husband.” 

Catherine the Great, an Enlightenment monarch, impressed people with her wit and charm. People in the Age of Reason liked you to have a good sense of humor.

Golda Meir, the former prime minister of Israel, had sharp wit and comebacks. Henry Kissinger once told her that he was an American first, then the Secretary of State, and then a Jew. Golda told him that was fine since, in Hebrew, people read from right to left.

Angela Merkel, the leader of Germany, is a more surprisingly amusing world leader. Germans have a very serious reputation. Nonetheless, multiple people have noticed her sense of humor. Merkel once noted that: “Humor is important in politics. I laugh at least once every day, otherwise I cannot do this job.” People especially are impressed with her skillful imitations.  

History is often a serious business. The rest of the time, it is rather amusing.

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.