For years trivia-loving comedian Mo Rocca had been stuffing his mind with presidential data—so why not write a White House book timed to the election? He just had to settle on a topic. "In my mind I had gone through presidential children, first wives, surgeries. And I thought: There's got to be something to do with pets." The result, All the Presidents' Pets: The Story of One Reporter Who Refused to Roll Over
, is a satiric pseudohistory that argues that the Oval Office has really been run by the likes of Teddy Roosevelt's one-legged rooster and JFK's terrier Charlie. "The great thing about the book," says Rocca, "is that no one can prove it's not true."
In a campaign year in which comedians seem to outnumber reporters, Rocca—a Daily Show
fixture from 1998 to '03 and now a commentator for NBC's Today
—is one of the quirkiest. Often dressing with geeky flamboyance ("Who doesn't love a yellow jacket?"), he's the only voice on the trail to compare "The Two Americas"—John Edwards's stump-speech theme about haves and have-nots—to a feud between Hilary Duff
and Lindsay Lohan
. "His material is from politics, which gives it a sense of reality," says MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann, "only with a very abrupt left turn into oncoming traffic." The never-married Rocca, 35, who now lives in Manhattan and grew up outside Washington, D.C., where his parents ran a language school (his mother, Maria Louisa, is from Colombia), can imagine an even more dramatic career swerve: "I'm biding my time until Matt Lauer throws in the towel. 'Where in the World Is Mo Rocca?' I'd love that."