U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he walks across the South Lawn before boarding Marine One and departing the White House June 25, 2012 in Washington, DC. ; Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Obama made his comedy web series debut on Tuesday by sitting down with comedian Zach Galifianakis as his guest on “Between Two Ferns”. The fake public access show airs on the comedy website Funny or Die and features Galifianakis asking awkward questions to high-profile guests.
Obama appeared with the comedian to encourage young people to enroll in a health care plan through Obamacare. But first he had to face Galifianakis asking him if “Ambassador Rodman” had gone to North Korea on his behalf and whether he would put his presidential library in Hawaii or his “home country of Kenya.”
Obama seemed willing to face the deadpan jabs from Galifianakis if it meant reaching that coveted millennial age group that the Affordable Care Act needs to attract in order to keep costs down.
The comedian begrudgingly let Obama “plug” the healthcare law and the website, which Obama said “works great now.”
The gambit appeared to pay off — according to a member of the White House communications staff, Funny Or Die was the top driver of traffic to HealthCare.gov Tuesday morning.
The President is no stranger to pop culture and has “slow-jammed” the news with Jimmy Fallon, faced off with Stephen Colbert and mocked himself in a sketch for the White House Correspondents dinner by playing Daniel Day Lewis (playing President Obama, of course).
Obama might be the most web savvy, digitally connected president in history but should the president of the United States be chatting with comedians on a low-budget web TV series?
What does it say about the millennial generation that the president needs to appear on a web series in order to reach them? Will the communication strategy actually work?
Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian and Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of multiple books on U.S. political history, including “Jimmy Carter” (Times books, 2010) “Conservatives in Power: The Reagan Years, 1981-1989 (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010)
This story has been updated.
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