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," opening at the Library of Congress on Friday, June 11, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The exhibition will be located in the Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St., S.E. in Washington, D.C.
Focusing on the careers of Hope and other prominent entertainers, the "Hope for America" exhibit will explore the dynamics of political and social satire and will provide a unique window into the evolution of satirical humor. "This new exhibition differs significantly from the previous one, that celebrated vaudeville, because it explores the time-honored tradition of American comedians commenting on the political scene in satires that have entertained and rattled the political establishment," said William Jacobs, chief of the Library's Interpretive Programs Office.
"Hope for America" will draw from the treasured Bob Hope Collection, which was donated to the Library by the Hope family in 1998. On display will be Hope's personal papers, joke files, films and radio and television broadcasts, along with other materials from the Library's vast collections.
The exhibition will examine 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.
"Bob Hope has been an inspiration to the many comedians who came after him who do topical, political humor," said contemporary satirist Stephen Colbert. Reminiscent of his popular television show, 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, Sean Penn and Richard Pryor.
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."
By tracing the multiple facets of political humor through a wide range of photographs, film clips and original source materials that represent an array of viewpoints, the exhibition will challenge visitors to draw their own conclusions regarding the synergy between politics and entertainment in American society and its consequences for the nation's political culture.
Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library's rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.
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