VENICE, Italy — President Reagan, unaware that his remarks were being overheard, told an Italian-Irish joke today as he was warming up for his weekly radio address.
During a recording session at the villa where he is staying for the economic summit, Reagan commented that he was going to tell "my gondola joke."
The first part of the joke could not be overheard, but it appeared the story concerned a gondolier who was singing a popular Neapolitan song as he piloted his boat through the canals.
The rest of the joke went like this:
"And the Lord said, 'I wonder what would happen if I took away 25% of his brainpower,' " as the gondolier was singing 'O sole mio' (Oh, my sun)'.
"So the Lord did" and the gondolier sang only part of the song, 'O sole, O sole.'
"The Lord said, 'Hey, I'll take half of it away,' " and the gondolier's song was shortened to 'O so, O so.'
"Finally, the Lord said, 'What will happen if I take all of his brainpower away?' and he did." And the gondolier suddenly switched his tune and sang, "When Irish eyes are smiling."
As the audience of broadcast technicians laughed, Reagan said, "See, I can tell that, being Irish."
"I can't tell ethnic jokes except if they're Irish now," said Reagan, an Irishman. He laughingly added, "In fact, I can't go to Ireland anymore."