The Lost Comedy Career of Bill Clinton

Perhaps no political figure in US history (save for George W. Bush) has been the subject of more jokes and ribbing than Bill Clinton. Just from the Lewinsky scandal alone, comedians have generated more material off of Clinton than they have from the antics of far-more ridiculous politicians like Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle, and Richard Nixon, who were basically real-life Saturday Night Live characters to begin with. But beyond being the subject of endless blue dress and “I didn’t inhale” jokes, Clinton’s proven to be a funny guy himself - for a politician. The former president can land jokes in his speeches, and he has closer ties to the comedy world than most commanders-in-chief. In fact, he’s come close - a number of times - to attempting comedic acting in movies and TV but never pulled the trigger.

Bill Clinton’s first flirtation with acting was in the abandoned Chris Tucker comedy Mr. President. In development around the same time as Chris Rock’s Head of State in 2001, Mr. President would have starred Tucker as the first black president (crazy, right?). In an interview with Film Monthly, Chris Tucker said  Bill Clinton wanted to make a cameo in the movie, but oddly enough, not as himself. Said Tucker, “He wants to play a regular person in the movie.” Clinton cameoing in a movie as a fictional character and not himself seems like an odd choice, but it never happened because Chris Rock’s movie beat Mr. President into production and Chris Tucker abandoned the project.

Clinton visited the set of The Hangover 2 in Thailand in 2010, when he was in town to give a speech. People reported that he shot a cameo in the movie and that they confirmed this news with a Clinton source. Ed Helms disputed the story, and Clinton didn’t end up in the final cut of the film, but Bradley Cooper later told EW that Clinton was bugging him about cameoing in another one of his movies while on set. Said Cooper, “The first thing [Clinton] said when he sat down was, ‘Is there going to be an A-Team 2–and can I be in it?’ I was like, ‘This is a joke, right?’” The A-Team didn’t do well enough to generate a sequel, so that’s another Clinton movie cameo we’ll never get to see. Even though the Hangover cameo turned out not to be true, it is strange that someone from within the Clinton camp confirmed to the press that it was happening and maybe there’s more to the story than we know.

In the late night world, Bill Clinton has been a bigger fixture than any other president. His saxophone-playin’ Arsenio appearance during his ‘92 campaign is well-known, but Clinton was also the first U.S. president to ever appear on The Daily Show in 2004 (followed by Carter and Obama), is the only president to have appeared on The Colbert Report, and is a regular on Letterman. In 2004, he was offered the chance to host Saturday Night Live, which would have made him the first president to do so (Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush have each appeared on the show in pre-taped segments). Clinton apparently turned down the offer - or it was turned down for him. Tina Fey chased Bill Clinton to appear on 30 Rock’s 100th episode last year, but the ex-president’s representatives said no without even consulting him. The Clinton rep told the press, “The request was made and immediately denied without asking him.”

Bill Clinton’s VP Al Gore has both hosted SNL and guested on 30 Rock, but we’re still waiting for Clinton to make his comedic debut. The NY Daily News reported in ‘04 that Clinton had a standing offer to host SNL at the time, so hopefully, he finally gives in and does the show one of these days. And hopefully, everyone behind The Hangover 2 stops lying about that cameo and releases the secret footage.

The Lost Comedy Career of Bill Clinton