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Television

The Obamas’ most notable pop culture appearances

President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama
President Obama gives the first lady a thumbs up.
(Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

Inspired by the real first date between Barack Obama and Michelle (not-yet-Obama) Robinson, the movie “Southside With You” gives audiences a glimpse at the blossoming romance between the future president and first lady of the United States. While the love story of a sitting president may not seem like usual romantic movie fare, breaking away from the status quo is what the Obamas do best.

No other president or first lady has been as entertainment- and pop culture-savvy as the Obamas. Both have been unafraid to make their rounds on TV to promote their causes including affordable healthcare, education and fighting childhood obesity.

Whatever your political affiliation, it’s hard to deny that Americans have gotten to know (or at least feel like they’ve gotten to know) the first family in a way that was unimaginable before the current age of social and viral media. Of course, it’s not just the number of their cameos and interviews that have helped their pop culture popularity – it’s that in these appearances they seem like real people, in a real loving relationship, who really love their kids.

In addition to his various late-night TV appearances, President Obama has been deemed funny enough to qualify for an episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” He also showed he understood and was unafraid of tapping into the zeitgeist when he called upon his anger translator Luthor (from “Key & Peele,” played by Keegan-Michael Key himself) to join him at the 2015 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

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First Lady Obama has made her own mark from high-fiving Leslie Knope (on “Parks and Recreation) to “random dancing” with the kids of “iCarly” and sitting down for a talk with Rory Gilmore, all while promoting her Let’s Move and Let Girls Learn initiatives.

If the Obamas’ appearances alone don’t make it apparent that they are pop culture consumers and connoisseurs, let’s not forget that they actually introduced us to “Hamilton” years before it was Broadway’s hottest show.

Here are some of our favorite pop culture moments from President and First Lady Obama.

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“Carpool Karaoke” with James Corden, 2016

Just days before Michelle Obama was making headlines for her powerful speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, she proved her mastery of both the lyrics and dance moves to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” while riding in the front seat of a car driven by “The Late Late Show’s” James Corden. She also used the appearance to highlight Let Girls Learn by singing the anthem for the initiative “This Is For My Girls” along with Missy Elliott.

“Slow Jam the News” with Jimmy Fallon, 2016

The FLOTUS is not the only one unafraid to showcase her vocal chops. In June, President Obama took to “The Tonight Show” to share some of his notable accomplishments during his tenure as the commander in chief, including the Affordable Care Act, same-sex marriage and stimulating the economy. Set to a sensual R&B melody, the president also reminded Americans that the vote in November was crucial and shared his future vacation plans.

“Evolution of Mom Dancing” with Jimmy Fallon, 2013

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Of course, the president isn’t the only Obama to have a hit bit on “The Tonight Show.” The first lady also took to the late-night show to promote her Let’s Move initiative in order to encourage parents everywhere to get moving with their kids while showcasing her sweet mom-dancing moves. FLOTUS reprised the skit in 2015.

“Billy on the Street,” 2015

The first lady joined Big Bird as contestants on Billy Eichner’s quiz show to promote healthful eating for kids and parents and the eat brighter campaign. Fittingly, the episode took place in a grocery store and involved bits that saw the FLOTUS hiding behind some produce and pushing Eichner in a grocery cart. One of the highlights was Eichner asking Obama “who’s hotter: Abraham Lincoln or Barack Obama?”

“The Decree,” 2014

Hearing Stephen Colbert’s claim that he could be a politician in a snap but “a politician could never do my job” as he challenged Obamacare, the POTUS took it upon himself to prove Colbert wrong by ambushing a segment on “The Colbert Report.” Of course, Obama added his own presidential flair to “The Word” by dubbing it “The Decree” as he addressed the various ways opponents could try to overturn the Affordable Care Act.  

“The Ellen DeGeneres Show” dance-off, 2015

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FLOTUS’ friendly rivalry with Ellen DeGeneres has given “Ellen” viewers a glimpse of Obama’s competitive fire in the form of on-screen contests such as who can do the most push-ups. Of course, with Obama and DeGeneres both having an affinity to dance, it was only a matter of time until the two had a choreographed dance-off to “Uptown Funk.”

“Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis,” 2014

Both the president and first lady have not shied away from appearing on platforms where the people – specifically young people – are, and nothing exemplified this more, perhaps, than the POTUS’ interview on Galifianakis’ talk show parody, “Between Two Ferns.” Obama tackled the awkwardness head on while delivering mighty sharp digs at the host (“If I ran a third time it would be sort of like doing a third ‘Hangover’ movie. It didn’t really work out very well did it?”) all to plug the Affordable Care Act and healthcare.gov.

“Jeopardy,” 2015

Nothing says “you’ve made it” like having your own “Jeopardy!” category. The first lady commemorated the 5th anniversary of her Let’s Move initiative by appearing on the trivia show via video to quiz contestants on their knowledge of healthful cooking.   

“MythBusters,” 2010

President Obama spent his presidency advocating for science, technology, engineering and math education and working to make sure all students have a fair chance to excel in these fields. What better way to encourage interest in science than challenging the “MythBusters”? True to form, Obama challenged Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman to revisit the myth of Archimedes’ solar ray — a myth the team had already busted before — to highlight how in science, it’s important to thoroughly test and re-test hypotheses when new information or resources present themselves. 

“Go to College” rap with Jay Pharoah, 2015

FLOTUS drops some rhymes to encourage people to go to college. The video speaks for itself.

tracy.brown@latimes.com

Twitter: @tracycbrown


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