Is Barack Obama the nation's first hipster president?
Obama appeared Tuesday in an episode of "Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis," a recurring comedy sketch on the Funny or Die website. Maybe it was just good prep work by his aides, but Obama's grasp of the "Two Ferns" conceit — the mutual antagonism between host and guest — suggested that he was actually familiar with the cringe-worthy series.
The president was on "Two Ferns" ostensibly to promote the Affordable Care Act and urge people to sign up for a health plan at HealthCare.gov, the new federal insurance-buying site. And it's not unusual for a president or first lady to enlist the help of a pop-culture kingpin to advance the White House's agenda, whether it be appearing on a late-night show or a daytime TV gabfest.
But "Two Ferns" is hardly the "Tonight Show." It's aimed not at the masses but at a niche: people who delight in watching an inept talk-show host fail while his guests squirm in discomfort. It's an "I Love Lucy" bit done again and again with different guest stars, with an extra helping of irony (Is Galifianakis making fun of himself or of celebrities desperate enough for exposure that they'll appear on a sad-sack, cable-access program?).
In short, it's for the young and disaffected — the hipster demographic.
Granted, as the end of Obamacare's open enrollment period approaches, that's one segment of the population likely to still be uninsured. He specifically reached out in the video to "young invincibles" — young people who "don't think that they can get hurt," as Obama put it — to sign up online, by phone or in person by March 31. The more young people who sign up, the better the risk pool will be for insurers, which translates into lower premiums next year (or more likely, smaller premium increases).
This being "Two Ferns," however, Galifianakis subtly mocked the president's sales pitch, mumbling "Is this what they call 'drones?'" as he massaged his temple. Although it was funny, I couldn't help thinking that I was laughing at Obama, not Galifianakis.
If Obama knew what he was getting into, then kudos to him for being much, much edgier than the average commander in chief. But then he's considerably younger than most of his predecessors, so maybe that shouldn't be a surprise.
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