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Pat Paulsen

Pat Paulsen campaigning on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
Born Patrick Layton Paulsen
July 6, 1927(1927-07-06)
South Bend, Washington
Died April 24, 1997 (aged 69)
Tijuana, Mexico
Spouse(s) Noma Paulsen
Official website

Patrick Layton Paulsen (July 6, 1927 – April 24, 1997) was an American comedian and satirist notable for his roles on several of the Smothers Brothers TV shows, and for his campaigns for President of the United States in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1988, 1992, and 1996, which had primarily comedic rather than political objectives, although his campaigns generated some protest votes for him.


Early life and education

Paulsen was born in South Bend, Washington, a small fishing town in Pacific County. When he was 10, the whole family moved to California.

After graduating from Tamalpais High School, in Mill Valley, Paulsen immediately joined the United States Marines during World War II. Paulsen returned home after the war and worked several jobs, including working as a posting clerk, truck driver, hod carrier, selling Fuller brushes, toiling in a gypsum mine. Later, he was employed as a photostat operator for several years. After attending San Francisco City College, Paulsen joined an acting group called "The Ric-y-tic Players" and formed a comedy trio which included his brother Lorin.

Career in comedy

Paulsen went on to become a single act appearing as a comedic guitarist in various clubs on the west coast and in New York City. During one of his appearances in San Francisco, he met the Smothers Brothers.

In 1967, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour premiered. Paulsen said he was hired because he sold them cheap songs and would run errands. At first he was cast as their editorialist, and his deadpan, double-talk comments on the issues of the day propelled him into the national consciousness. (His deadpan work was nearly flawless: on one isolated occasion, in a talk about Hawaii, he defined a wahine as something you put on a bu-hun with lots of mu-hustard. His composure started to crack, but he recovered.) His work on The Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour earned Paulsen an Emmy in 1968.[1] Early in 1970, Paulsen headlined his own series, Pat Paulsen's Half a Comedy Hour, which ran 13 weeks on ABC. Guests on the first show were former Vice President of the United States Hubert Humphrey and an animated Daffy Duck, the latter of whom was interviewed by Paulsen.

The comedian was approached by the Smothers Brothers with the idea of running for President in 1968. His reply, he was later to recount, was: "Why not? I can't dance — besides, the job has a good pension plan and I'll get a lot of money when I retire."

Paulsen's campaign that year, and in succeeding years, was grounded in comedy, while not bereft of serious commentary. He ran the supposed campaigns using obvious lies, double talk, and tongue-in-cheek attacks on the major candidates, and responded to all criticism with his catch phrase "Picky, picky, picky". His campaign slogan was "Just a common, ordinary, simple savior of America's destiny."

Paulsen's name appeared on the ballot in New Hampshire for the Democratic Primary several times. In 1996 he received 921 votes (1%) to finish second to President Bill Clinton (76,754 votes); this was actually ahead of real politicians such as Buffalo mayor James D. Griffin. In 1992 he came in second to George Bush in the North Dakota Republican Primary. In the 1992 Republican Party primaries he received 10,984 votes total.

During later years, Paulsen appeared in nightclubs, theaters, and conventions throughout the country. He also appeared each summer in Traverse City, Michigan, at the Cherry County Playhouse where he produced and starred in some 25 different plays, including The Fantasticks, The Odd Couple, Harvey, and The Sunshine Boys.

He died of complications from colon and brain cancer and pneumonia in Tijuana, Mexico, on April 25, 1997.


  • Pat Paulsen for President (1968)
  • Live at the Ice House (1970)
  • Unzipped (1998).


"All the problems we face in the United States today can be traced to an unenlightened immigration policy on the part of the American Indian."

"I don’t want to say too much about illegal immigration. I’m afraid my views will be reported on the Cinco O’Clock News" [cite: - Retrieved on 2008-07-29]

On the Miranda warning: "Why should we tell kidnappers, murderers, and embezzlers their rights? If they don't know their rights, they shouldn't be in the business."

"A good many people feel that our present draft laws are unjust. These people are called soldiers."

"Sex doesn't have to be taught. It's something most of us are born with."

When originally "denying" he was running, borrowing from General William Sherman in 1884: "I will not run if nominated, and if elected I will not serve."

Presidential campaign slogan: "I've upped my standards. Now, up yours."

Presidential campaign slogan: "If elected, I will win."

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself...and of course the boogieman."

"I am neither left wing nor right wing. I am middle-of-the-bird."

"If either the right wing or the left wing gained control of the country, it would probably fly around in circles."

"Marijuana should be licensed and kept out of the hands of teenagers. It's too good for them."

When asked if he believed in the right to bear arms: "No, I believe in the right to arm bears."

On network censorship: "I feel proud to be living in a country where people are not afraid to laugh at themselves and where political satire is tolerated by the government, if not the television network."

On network censorship: "Censorship does not interfere with the constitutional rights of every American to sit alone in a dark room in the nude and cuss. There are realistic taboos, especially regarding political comments. Our leaders were not elected to be tittered at. For example, we're allowed to say Ronald Reagan is a lousy actor, but we're not allowed to say he's a lousy governor—which is ridiculous. We know he's a good actor. And we're not allowed to make fun of President 'Johnson'. But if we praise him, who would believe it?"

On his political affiliation: "I belong to the Straight Talking American Government Party, or STAG Party for short."

See also


  1. ^ Grimes, William (April 26, 1997). "Pat Paulsen, 69, a Parodist Of Presidential Doubletalk". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Patrick Layton Paulsen (July 6, 1927April 24, 1997) was an American comedian and satirist notable for his roles on several of the Smothers Brothers television shows, and for his supposed campaigns for President of the United States in 1968, 1972, 1980, 1988, 1992, and 1996, which had primarily comedic rather than political objectives.


  • Look what it did to the Grand Canyon. It could do the same to your stomach.
    • Spoof public-service announcement on the dangers of water, during one of his Presidential "campaigns", circa 1972

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Patrick Layton ("Pat") Paulsen (1927-1997) was an American comedian and actor, whose longest-running role was as a perennial "candidate" for President of the United States.

Paulsen served in the United States Marines during World War II. After the war, he went to college, and worked a variety of jobs (as a salesman, an office clerk, a truck driver, and others) before starting a comedy troupe with his brother. After the troupe broke up, Paulsen started performing on his own. He played at many of the same venues as the Smothers Brothers, before they became famous.

After the Smothers Brothers began a television variety show (The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour) in 1967, they invited Paulsen to join their regular cast. He wrote comedy sketches for the show, and also appeared on camera in different roles. He began a series of mock editorials, that became very popular, by both poking fun at extremist opinions, and giving people reasons to think and talk about important issues (the First Amendment, gun control, drugs, and other matters). Hundreds of viewers wrote to CBS, who broadcast the Comedy Hour, to ask for copies of the editorials.

During 1968 (an election year in the United States), Paulsen began a pretend "campaign" for President, and used the campaign to show the humor and irony in American politics. He did many of the things a real candidate would do, making public appearances, giving speeches, granting media interviews, and making his "stand on the issues" well known. When Election Day came, people in many places around the United States really did vote for Paulsen, as a write-in candidate, because they were not satisfied with what the real candidates (Republican Richard M. Nixon, Democrat Hubert Humphrey, Alabama governor George Wallace, and others) promised to do as President.

After The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour ended in 1969, Paulsen continued to work as a comedian and actor. Instead of just making people laugh, he often drew their attention to problems in American society, such as pollution, prejudice, and poor government. During the 1970s, he bought the Cherry County Playhouse, a theater in Traverse City, Michigan that showed stage plays.

Paulsen sometimes reunited with the Smothers Brothers, and usually staged another pretend campaign every election year. In 1992 he chose singer Tiny Tim as his running mate, to become his Vice President. Paulsen died in 1997 of cancer, during medical treatment in Mexico.

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