March 12, 2014

Our Commander in Chief bantered with the popular comedian, plugged the ACA.
Our Commander in Chief bantered with the popular comedian, plugged the ACA.

I’m a fan of Zach Galifianakis. It takes guts to stride through life with his mouthful-of-a-name, much less Hollywood. The Hangover conglomerate, while amusing in its extravagance, generally left me with my eyes rolling, but his offbeat character refreshed the barrage of alpha-males the film trilogy celebrates. His SNL bits always make me laugh, and I’m appreciative of what I’ve read of his off-screen life; he secretly married his long-term girlfriend, and he appears to be happy with his generally atypical celebrity appearance.

But Between Two Ferns, Galifianakis’ parody talk show on the site Funny or Die, takes the cake. The show, where guests are interviewed, literally, between two ferns, typically involves a heavy dose of awkward slander from Galifianakis. A little bit like British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s talk show Da Ali G Show, some guests seem in the loop on the hoax, while others flabbergasted by Galifianakis’ supposedly serious gal.

Yesterday, Between Two Ferns jumped its status in a unique way; President Obama appeared as a guest. Most of the six-and-a-half-minute show was a battle of the wits, with Galifianakis clearly losing to an extraordinarily sarcastic Obama. Stuck in the middle of quite a few funny bits, including a reference to North IKEA, and a call for the legalization of same-sex divorce, this episode included a minute-and-a-half Presidential plug for the Affordable Care Act. I’ll be honest, I set my phone down at that point. The President lost my undivided attention when he broke character and fell back into his stump-speech lingo. The show, usually 100% hilarity, had deviated; a slightly odd public service announcement, saved only by returning to comedy for the final minute.

But on second-review, I can’t help but think how cool it is that we have a President willing to try something as quirky as this. It’s widely known these days that Obama has won the heart of the Millenials, but can’t seem to get a grip on how to sell us the pearl of his Presidency – health care for all, at the cost of a cell phone bill. While his message via Galifianakis seemed more patronizing than playful, at least he’s breaking out of the box a bit, using the power of the viral video to push us youngsters to take out our iPhones and sign up before the March 31st deadline.