Why 'Between Two Ferns' Works

Why 'Between Two Ferns' Works

President Barack Obama has come in for a fair amount of criticism for his appearance on Funny or Die’s Between Two Ferns, a satirical interview sketch hosted by Zach Galifianakis. Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly have slammed the interview as demeaning to the office of the President, and I happen to agree, though I don’t agree with those who have called it “unfunny.” I thought it was pretty hilarious, at least the first time through.

The second time I watched it, I enjoyed it less. But there was one part that still made me chuckle. It’s where Galifianakis mocks Obamacare:

Obama: …Have you heard of the Affordable Care Act.

Galifianakis: Oh, yeah, I h’ve heard about that. That’s the thing that doesn’t work. Why would you get the guy who created the Zune to make your website?

As Obama defends healthcare.gov, Galifianakis keeps mocking it, checking his watch and mumbling: “Is this what they mean by ‘drones’?”

I’m not alone in thinking that’s the best part of the interview. The reason it works–even when you know it’s coming–is that we are not used to people criticizing Obama to his face. The media certainly don’t do it, the Republicans barely do it, and when the president tells self-deprecating jokes, he’s usually poking fun at just how great he really is. Obamacare really has been a disappointment, so the joke has quite a bit of sting to it.

It’s entertaining–and even, dare I say, endearing–to watch the president take a few punches. What comes out of his mouth after that is pure nonsense, but there’s a reason that the #1 source of referrals to healthcare.gov was funnyordie.com yesterday (admittedly, “a mighty low bar,” as John Nolte points out). The president may have diminished his stature a bit by doing the interview, but it’s not the worst media appearance he’s done, and this time he opened himself up a bit. That’s why it worked.