I am a proud American and passionate patriot -- but I am, first and foremost, a comedian's daughter. So I was triply thrilled to see President Obama make a special appearance this week on Zack Galifianakis' white-hot web series, "Between Two Ferns," on Funny or Die.
For those just tuning in, "Ferns" premiered in 2008 as a pitch-perfect send-up of the cheap, no-frills basic cable interview show, complete with cheesy music and bad graphics. But what Galifianakis brings to the satirical series is what makes it so special: the same kind of razor-sharp timing and deft delivery he's lent to a spate of big-screen comedies such as "The Hangover." As "Fern"'s disorganized, slovenly, grouchy and always insulting host, he improvises much of the material -- which of course makes the reactions of his guests that much more delicious.
And speaking of guests, you know a show is hot when A-list talent is falling over itself to be invited onto it. Since its launch, "Between Two Ferns" has featured such heavyweights as Bruce Willis, Steve Carell, Justin Bieber, Natalie Portman, John Hamm, Sean Penn, Tina Fey...and, oh yes, this week, the Chief Executive of the United States.
This is hardly the first time an American president has dipped a toe in the waters of popular entertainment. Dwight Eisenhower mixed it up with Abbott and Costello on "The Colgate Comedy Hour"; Richard Nixon delivered his famous "Sock it to me" on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In;" and, of course, Bill Clinton played the sax on Arsenio, sporting shades, no less!
But President Obama is the first to bring the tradition to viral Internet comedy, and his appearance on "Ferns" was no random thing. Eight months in the planning, it was part of the White House's efforts to inform younger Americans ("Ferns'" prime demographic) about the nation's new Affordable Care Act. This was a smart move. Regardless of where one stands on the landmark health plan, the fact is, younger Americans have historically been uninsured at much higher rates than any other age group: According to 2008 Census data, 37 percent of people ages 19-25 are uninsured; likewise 25 percent of people ages 26-35. The ACA hopes to change those numbers.
But politics aside, I was delighted to see the President step up to the comedy plate and -- as my father and his comedian pals would say -- "kill." He holds steady under a barrage of Galifianakis insults, and delivers quite a few zingers of his own. It is a performance worth watching.
According to Ferns' director, Scott Aukerman, the President was not only willing to face the challenge of major league comedy, he also agreed to play by the show's rules. "We shot [the episode] the way we always shoot them," Auckerman told CBS News, "where it's very experimental and anything can kind of happen." And what did Aukerman think of the Chief Executive's comedy chops? "He is a really funny guy. I mean, we've had some funny people on the show, but there's just something magnetic about him when he gets on screen. He was ready. He was locked and loaded."
Click above to watch President Obama's performance -- then take a spin (below) through some of my other favorite "Ferns!"