You have to hand it to Barack Obama: The man knows how laugh at himself.
And hopefully the American public will be laughing at the president’s appearance on the Web comedy series Between Two Ferns, hosted by Zach Galifianakis.
One of the website Funny or Die’s most popular recurring series, Between Two Ferns is a sharp parody of celebrity talk shows, as executed on a bargain-basement budget and with a host that appears only vaguely interested in his guests.
In past outings of Between Two Ferns, which features a jazzy version of Taxi Driver as its theme song, Galifianakis has asked actress Charlize Theron for details on her thighs and spanked Justin Bieber with his belt.
Since BTF ‘s inception in 2008, the show has become an Internet cult hit – some episodes have generated more than 30-million views – and likely for one reason: Galifianakis unfailingly makes the person sitting opposite him awkward and uncomfortable.
Enter Obama who, as the New York Times reports, taped his sitdown on the show two weeks ago and with a specific goal in mind: To urge young Americans to sign up for health insurance on the government’s website, healthcare.gov.
The deadline for enrolling for 2014 is March 31 and the White House is serious about increasing the numbers. So serious that the president is willing to show up on an online talk show.
“We have to find ways to break through,” said White House senior adviser and chief communications strategist Dan Pfeiffer. “This is essentially an extension of the code we have been trying to crack for seven years now.”
And make no mistake: Obama has previously been a good sport on several other American TV shows. Last year he famously “slow-jammed” the news on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; he’s also sat down for a friendly chat with the daytime talk doyennes of The View and happily talked about basketball in an interview with former NBA great Charles Barkley.
But the commander-in-chief takes comedy to a higher ground in his Between Two Ferns appearance. Herewith a quick rundown of the clip’s seven most awkward and hilarious moments.
Obama is accommodating. The interview fades in with Galifianakis apologizing to the President for having to previously cancel their interview a few times. “My mouse pad broke last week and I had to get my great aunt some diabetes shoes…”
Obama responds with, “You know what, Zach, it’s no problem. When I heard people actually watch this show, I was pretty surprised.” Then Galifianakis cuts him off with “Shhh, shhh” as the theme music ends.
Obama keeps things moving. Galifianakis blunders through his clipboard of questions and asks the President, “What should we do about North Ikea.” Obama: “Why don’t we move on.”
Obama gives as good as he gets. The President calmly confirms he has no desire to run for a third term. “If I ran a third time it would be sort of like doing a third Hangover movie. Didn’t really work out very well, did it?”
Obama also needles Galifianakis about his former Hangover co-star Bradley Cooper being a “good-looking guy.” Galifianakis is immediately put off his game.
“Being like that in Hollywood, that’s easy,” he sputters. “Tall, handsome, that’s easy. Be short, fat and smell like Doritos and try making it in Hollywood.”
Obama is diplomatic. Early into the interview, Galifianakis blurts out the question, “What is it like to be the last black president?” Without blinking an eye, Obama responds, “Seriously, what’s it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a president?”
Obama gets to the point. After a few minutes, the president gets right to the purpose for his visit. “It’s fair to say I wouldn’t be with you here today if I didn’t have something to plug,” he tells Galifianakis.
After Obama finishes extolling the virtues of his government’s healthcare plan, Galifianakis rolls up his jacket sleeve to show him what is apparently a skin condition. “Spider bites. I got attacked by spiders,” he says.
Says the prez: “Zach, you need to get that checked right away. You need to get on healthcare.gov because that’s one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen.”
Obama stays on point. Apparently running out of questions, Galifianakis asks Obama which country he was rooting for during the recent Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. Obama responds with a genuinely incredulous, “Seriously? I’m the President of the United States. What do you think?”
Obama can do schtick. In the interview’s closing moments, Obama notices a large red button on the desk and tells his host, “I’m gonna press this.” The low-rent backdrop falls away and reveals the pair to be in the Diplomatic Room at the White House. Obama asks who gave him permission to shoot there and Galifianakis softly mumbles, “Bush…”
When the two men finally shake hands, Galifianakis asks the president to watch his hand, reminding him of the spider bites. Obama tells him it was the other hand and Galifianakis says, “It’s everywhere,” and the President quickly yanks his hand away.