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Zach Galifianakis Jumps The Fern With President Barack Obama

Posted by David Murdico on March 11th, 2014 at 3:58 pm

I used to love Between Two Ferns... and always looked forward to new episodes... until today. If you haven't seen it yet, Zach Galifianakis interviews President Barack Obama.

Actually, I'm conflicted, because I love comedy, I write comedy and I run an online video and social media marketing agency, so I should love the idea that a web series is featuring the President of The United States.

I should also love that they're doing it for marketing purposes, because that's exactly what I do... make funny videos for brands, businesses and startups for marketing purposes.

What I don't like about the video, is that the President is blatantly schilling the Affordable Health Care Act / www.healthcare.gov (yeah, I'll give it a plug) , and they're blatantly calling attention to the fact that the President is blatantly schilling healthcare.gov, as part of the gag, as if that would somehow make it more watchable... like everyone is in on the joke.

Throw in a joke about Kenya and the President's birth certificate, to make Zach seem confrontational and legit, make the President appear to have a great sense of humor about it, give the President a few scathing lines to throw back  at Zach and everyone will watch until the end when he pitches the website.

We even learn that Zach Galifianakis was attacked by spiders, so the President has the opportunity to tell him to go to healthcare.gov. Does anyone really think that:

  1. Mr. Galifianakis doesn't already have pretty good health insurance
  2. He was really attacked by spiders
  3. Spider attacks are contagious

What I REALLY don't like is that the video felt uncomfortably scripted. I know the show is supposed to be uncomfortable and awkward, and most episodes are probably at least loosely scripted, but even the "awkward" felt scripted.

That's because it was heavily scripted. It had to be. You can't put a sitting president in a room with a comedian and just let the cameras go. Plus, the agenda had to be seamlessly worked into the comedy. They could have done a better job at that.

The only part I laughed at was the reveal at the end, and overall the video was amusing but it was so agenda-driven that it killed it for me.

The real winner here is not President Obama, because I think he looks ridiculous, and not healthcare.gov, although we'll see how the site visits play out...  but Zach Galifianakis, because his show was just introduced to millions of new viewers who tuned in to see the President and will go back and watch the episodes that were actually funny up until this one.

But the real loser here is also Zach Galifianakis, who may suffer the same repercussions as when your favorite indie band signs with a major label and starts doing Coke ads.

Today is the day Between Two Ferns sold out.

As much as I don't like the video, I think it's probably good for the online video and social media marketing industry, but I don't think  Between two Ferns can ever go back to being what it was.

Maybe I'm just jaded because I see through their attempt to reach a specific audience and I know it's part of a much larger campaign to get young people on health care to subsidize the larger program, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but it smacks of propaganda. Let me know what you think!

4 Responses to “Zach Galifianakis Jumps The Fern With President Barack Obama”

  1. Greg says:

    I'm Canadian, I don't give two craps about the US health care debacle, actually, I find it entertaining that so many people are pissy about getting health insurance and care. Like you, I'm a fan of comedy, I've been watching Between Two Ferns since day one.

    Now have POTUS on there was absolutely marketing, people whole have to be complete idiots to deny that. What I find amazing is that Obama put himself out there to be on a show like this. It's crude, awkard, and just mean.

    I get two things out this: that Obama is definitely the everyman, he likes the sames things that you and I like. And more importantly, he's willing to do what it takes to push something he strongly believes in. He and his team were leaders in Social marketing during his first run at the white house. He has smart people around him that know how to reach people. We both know that less and less people are watching tv commercials, reading print, or paying attention to online ads. This is content marketing, something that iMedia loves to push!

    The only thing I didn't like about your article was the spider part. I don't think that was necessary. That part was only to have some fun. Of course Zack has health care. You're just trying to kill a joke. You can use that reasoning for a lot of jokes. Like in Dumb and Dumber when they get pulled over by the cops. Do you think a cop would just take a drink out of an open beer, swish it, and then swallow only to realize it was pee? No, that wouldn't happen.

    • David Murdico says:

      @Greg, I really like your point that "he's (Obama) willing to do what it takes to push something he strongly believes in." I'm not sure how strongly he believes in it personally, and how much of this is towing the party line, but I do respect that he listens to his super smart social media team, and is willing to do what it takes and put himself out there. I hadn't thought about how brave that really is for both a President and in terms of marketing.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. John says:

    Well I was supprised to see the president on this type of show I think it is great. I am sure as president you can't take time to do something purely for fun and it seems like in the beginning President Obama is excited to be on with Zach. Sure it was scripted but I think it's great he even wants to reach a younger demographic where they live. With how many views the video recieved you can also see that people are talking about it as well. How many times has presidet Obama talk about the affordable health care act on the news? Seems like that is getting talked about all the time there and does a younger generation pay attention to the news? I think I overall you are right everything was scripted, but I also think it made a great impact on people who have probably heard about Obamacare but haven't signed up yet.

    • David Murdico says:

      Thanks @John, and I'll add that the video itself hit the mainstream news / TV / radio too, so it had an impact on all audiences. I'm still curious to see what it does for enrollment on the website, which would be the ultimate goal, but as far as overall buzz and awareness I'm going to call it a success.

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