The Who2 Blog

Phony Presidential Trivia

Here’s a swell new Onion interview with writer John Hodgman.

He’s the dowdy “PC” on Apple TV ads, and a regular on Jon Stewart‘s show. He’s also the author of the fake-trivia books The Areas of My Expertise and More Information Than You Require.

Who2 has a love/hate relationship with Hodgman. Five years ago we wrote a fake trivia book of our own — Utterly False Trivia — and couldn’t get it published. We’re glad Hodgman got his out there, but full of envy and irritation that we couldn’t get it done ourselves.

That’s not Hodgman’s fault, of course. The shame is ours.

However: In honor of the presidential elections of 2008, here are a few choice items from the “Hail to the Chief” section of our unpublished UFT.

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Baseball star Babe Ruth portrayed President William Howard Taft in Big Bill, the only film in the Bambino’s brief post-baseball acting career. Ruth played both the president and himself in a scene where Taft throws out the first ball to Ruth at the 1912 World Series. It was the first use of split screen in Hollywood history.

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President Ronald Reagan‘s Four Famous Commands to Mikhail Gorbachev:

1. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
2. “Mr. Gorbachev, put down that maid!”
3. “Mr. Gorbachev, turn down that thermostat!”
4. “Mr. Gorbachev, make me a ham sandwich!”

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The Barkley Presidential Length Index (BPLI) uses a formula of height multiplied by length of term to measure the inch-hours served by each chief executive.

William Henry Harrison, at 5’10” but only 33 days in office, has the lowest BPLI. Abraham Lincoln, had he lived, would have had the hightest BPLI of any two-term president. The all-time highest BPLI belongs to four-term president Franklin Roosevelt, if measured while standing instead of in his wheelchair. However, had Lyndon Johnson (6’4″) run again for reelection in 1968 and completed 9+ years in office, he could have become the new BPLI leader.

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In his 2004 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush repeatedly referred to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein — who had been dubbed “the Butcher of Baghdad” — as “the Barber of Seville.”

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In an attempt to raise spirits during the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover had “Hail to the Chief” replaced with “The Charleston” whenever he appeared in public. The original song was quietly reinstated by Franklin Roosevelt in 1933.

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