"I don’t make jokes—I just watch the government and report the facts” (meaning that the government is enough of a joke) is attributed to humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935). Rogers did make similarly worded statements in 1925 and 1929; some versions replace “watch the government” with “watch the Congress” or “watch the Senate.”
Wikiquote: Will Rogers
William Penn Adair Rogers (4 November 1879 – 15 August 1935) was an American humorist and entertainer; known primarily as Will Rogers.
Will Rogers, Ambassador of Good Will, Prince of Wit and Wisdom (1935) by P. J. O’Brien
. There is no credit to being a comedian, when you have the whole Government working for you. All you have to do is report the facts. I don’t even have to exaggerate.
.. Variant: People often ask me, ‘Will, where do you get your jokes?’ I just tell ‘em, ‘Well, I watch the government and report the facts, that is all I do, and I don’t even find it necessary to exaggerate.
.. Variant: I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.
... As quoted in Saturday Review (25 August 1962)
7 July 1925, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Seeking Facts of Government: Civil Service League to Watch and Report; Will Rogers Anecdote Basis of New Slogan; Defects in Federal System Pointed Out” by Frederic J. Haskin, pg. 5:
“Watch the government and report the facts” is the slogan that has been adopted by the newly organized civil service league of the District of Columbia. The quotation is credited to Will Rogers.
11 January 1929, New York (NY) Times, “Will Rogers Enlivens Automotive Dinner,” pg. 13:
Some of Mr. Roger’s (sic) observations were:
“A toastmaster is only a high-grade hog-caller.”
“Prohibition is not an issue. It’s a commodity.”
“The United States never lost a war or won a conference.”
“People aske me where I get my jokes. I just watch Congress and report the facts.”
The Government of the United States:
National, State, and Local
By William Bennett Munro
New York, NY: The Macmillan Company
That primate among American political philosophers, Will Rogers, has said that “anyone can get a reputation as a humorist if he will only keep his eye on the Senate and report the facts.”
5 January 1943, New York (NY) Times, “Will Rogers Jr. Ready for Seat,” pg. 16:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (AP)—Will Rogers Jr. arrived today to become a member of Congress, an institution his father loved to chide. “My dad used to say he never had to think up a joke—that all he had to do was to watch Congress and report the facts,” the new Representative from California remarked. He is fresh from Camp Hood, Texas, where he was a second lieutenant in a tank destroyer unit.
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Tuesday, September 21, 2010 • Permalink