Washington DC - President Barack Obama thought he'd open with a joke when he telephoned the crew of the International Space Station recently:
"I was just dialing out for pizza, and I didn't expect to end up in space," Obama told the astronauts.
The attempt at humor was met with the stone cold silence of outer space, both in the orbiting station and in living rooms throughout America.
But Republican reaction to the president's punchline was anything but quiet.
"George Washington used to do things with his false teeth that put the British in stitches, and George W. Bush was practically a regular on Letterman," a party communications analyst noted. "Barack Obama, on the other hand, has strayed from our humorous heritage and has created a serious comedy deficit in America."
"I don't understand why this president finds it so hard to be funny," presidential contender Newt Gingrich charged. "I know people are laughing at me all the time."
Democratic analysts meanwhile attempted to assess why Obama is bombing as a presidential standup. Asked if the chief executive was using comedy writers, a party consultant replied: "Sadly, all of the president's jokes have been self-inflicted."
One probable cause of the problem is that Republican-inspired budget cuts have resulted in the suspension of the Office of Ironic Services. The Obama administration is desperately trying to restore that comedic resource by soliciting outside funding.
"We even booked time on the Jerry Lewis Telethon, then we remembered he's only funny in France," an administration spokesperson said.
The administration's latest proposal called for the creation of a National Comedy Corps that would be composed of America's best comedy writers, stand up comedians and cartoonists. "Unfortunately, they're all too busy directing."