Have you seen Barack Obama’s appearance on the satirical interview show Between Two Ferns? What did you think? According to some pundits, it is amazingly funny. Obama is the ‘best Between Two Ferns guest ever’, says Oliver Franklin at GQ. I must be missing something, because I found it painful and somewhat depressing. There a couple of quite good moments, granted – such as when Obama is busy plugging Affordable Healthcare and the host, Zach Galifianakis, says ‘Is this what they mean by drones?’ – but the rest is just a bit crap.
It is weirdly off, too. At times Obama, trying to be dead pan, just seems to miss the point, and in some moments it looks as if he is having a sense of humour failure. I do get that the key to Two Ferns is that it is awkward. The show is all about Galifianakis being a terrible interviewer. But this one jars in an unfunny way. One ends up wondering how well Obama gets the joke.
The pompous reaction to such obvious popularity-courting from a sitting president is to say that it is unworthy of his office. I’m more inclined to agree with the journalists Ross Douthat and Sonny Bunch, however, who say that what the latest Between Two Ferns really diminishes is the dignity of American comedy.
Like @SonnyBunch, I’m more concerned about what the “Between Two Ferns” says about our comedians than what it says about the presidency.
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) March 11, 2014
Americans are very funny. They make superb comedies and send themselves up far more effectively than we Brits do. Galifianakis is regularly hilarious. So are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Hell, Obama is usually pretty good at delivering punchlines. But too often now American comics confuse being witty with being a liberal Democrat; and all these President Obama skits are starting to get a little pathetic. Did everyone catch the recent one of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden running around the Oval Office? Yikes.
More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.