Legendary entertainer Bob Hope once quipped, "I love to go to Washington, if only to be near my money." Hope’s political humor, his relationship with U.S. presidents, and the interplay among the worlds of comedy, politics and civic activism are showcased in the new public exhibition "Hope for America: Performers, Politics & Pop Culture," which is available online.
Focusing on the careers of Hope and other prominent entertainers, the “Hope for America” exhibit explores the dynamics of political and social satire and will provide a unique window into the evolution of satirical humor.
The exhibition draws from the treasured Bob Hope Collection, which was donated to the Library by the Hope family in 1998. On display are Hope’s personal papers, joke files, films and radio and television broadcasts, along with other materials from the Library’s vast collections.
The exhibition examines entertainers’ involvement in a wide range of causes and campaigns, especially as leaders in supporting and entertaining American troops abroad. Hope’s commitment to public service for nearly 50 years on behalf of the men and women in the armed forces earned him many honors, including the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. During the Library’s Bicentennial celebration in 2000, Hope was also awarded a Library of Congress Living Legend medal.
Reminiscent of his popular television show, Stephen Colbert sets up the visitors experience in an introductory video presentation that highlights Hope’s USO, television and film performances, and features clips of such notables as Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Al Franken, Jimmy Carter, Jimmy Stewart, Groucho Marx and Sean Penn.
Colbert’s presentation examines the reasons why Hope was a favorite of 11 presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bill Clinton. While Colbert has actually considered a bid for the presidency, Hope—perhaps tongue-in-cheek—tells Johnny Carson in the presentation that his wife "wouldn’t want to move to a smaller house."
Another exhibition, “Bob Hope and American Variety,” traces the comedian’s roots in vaudeville.
The Library is no stranger to comedy. The institution is rich in vaudeville history and is the repository for the papers of Groucho Marx.