Morey Amsterdam wrote jokes for five presidents
He wasn't just a joke writer on TV!
The President of the United States is a lot of things. The president is the head of the Executive branch. The president is the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces. The president is rarely, if ever, good at writing jokes.
But the president is often called to make speeches and regale crowds. Those gigs demand some levity! Nothing puts constituents better at ease quite like the leader of the free world being self-effacing.
Enter Morey Amsterdam, The Dick Van Dyke Show's very own Buddy Sorrell. Just like his onscreen counterpart, Amsterdam was a comedy writer in real life, and would oftentimes pitch jokes and punch-up scripts on set. Occasionally, though, Amsterdam would be called upon to bring his talents to slightly more... buttoned-up affairs.
Throughout his career, Morey Amsterdam wrote jokes for no less than five presidents, according to his 1983 interview in the Tampa Bay Times.
"FDR. Not Truman—I met him once though. LBJ. John F. Kennedy. Ronnie Reagan."
President Lyndon B. Johnson was able to snatch Amsterdam up at the height of his comedic reach. While Amsterdam was rehearsing for an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, a crewmember approached him with a very important phone call. President Johnson's secretary patched him through to the Oval Office, where Amsterdam heard the familiar voice of our 36th president, who'd just seen his acceptance speech for an awards dinner.
The speech was terrible, and so the president sent a copy over to the Dick Van Dyke set.
"I punched it up for him," Amsterdam recalled.
His relationship with "Ronnie" Reagan was much friendlier, as the two had a shared Hollywood history. Amsterdam called him "a terrific actor."