March 11th, 2014
08:57 AM ET
6 years ago

No joke: Obama interviewed by Zach Galifianakis

Updated 12:29 p.m. ET, 3/11/2014

Washington (CNN) – President Obama took his message of health care for all to a cult internet comedy show, in an effort to get young people to sign up for Obamacare.

He appeared alongside Zach Galifianakis in the comedian and actor's mock talk-show called "Between Two Ferns." The interview with the President was recorded last month and posted Tuesday morning on the popular website "Funny or Die."

The six and a half minute wide ranging interview touched on pardoning Thanksgiving turkeys, to the president's ambassadorial picks, and health care. Galifianakis has become notorious for trying to make his guests on "Between Two Ferns" feel uncomfortable. But Obama appeared to hold his own, giving as good as he got.

Some of the bit was ad-libbed and some of it was scripted, according to a White House official. They had to stop the interview at points because the President would break out in laughter, the official added.

White House officials knew some of the questions were going to be "edgy," but the President was game for it. An official said Galifianakis expressed some concern about his material (we'll let you guess which parts), but officials assured the comedian that Obama would be just fine, they said.

On ambassadors:
Galifianakis: So how does this work? Do you send Ambassador Rodman to North Korea on your behalf? I read somewhere that you'd be sending Hulk Hogan to Syria, or is that more of a job for Tonya Harding.
Obama: Zach – he's not our ambassador.

On being President:
Galifianakis: What's it like to be the last black president?
Obama: Seriously, what's it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a president?

On same sex marriage:
You know what I would do if I were president, Mr. President, I would make same-sex divorce illegal. Then see how bad they want it.
Obama: I think that's why you're not president, and that's a good thing.

On Obamacare:
Galifianakis: So do you go to any websites that are dot-coms, or dot-nets, or do you mainly just stick with dot-govs?
Obama: No actually we go to dot-govs, have you heard of Healthcare.gov?
Galifianakis: Oh here we go, okay let's get this out of the way, what did you come here to plug?
Obama: Well first of all I think it's fair to say I wouldn't be with you here today if I didn't have something to plug.
Have you heard about the Affordable Care Act?
Galifianakis: Oh yeah, I've heard about that. That's the thing that doesn't work? Why would you  get the guy who created the Zune to make your website?
Obama: Healthcare.gov works great now. And millions of Americans have already gotten health insurance plans and what we want is for people to know that you can get affordable health care. And most young Americans, right now they're not covered. And the truth is that they can get coverage all for what it costs you to pay your cellphone bill.

On NSA Snooping:
Galifianakis: I don't have a phone, I'm off the grid. I don't want you people reading my texts, you know what I mean?
Obama: First of all Zac, no one is interested in your texts.

Undaunted, Obama brings the conversation back to Obamacare, and adds,  "But second of all you can do it in person, and the law means that insurers can't discriminate against you if you have a preexisting condition any more."

Galifianakis then rolls up his sleeve and shows the President an ailment on his arm, that Obama says is "disgusting" And tells him he needs to get it checked right away. He then makes one more plug for Obamacare saying, "Zac you need to get that checked right away. You need to get on Healthcare.gov because that's one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen.'

Galifianakis retorts, "Is your plug finally over?"

"I suppose so." Says the President.

At the end of the sketch, Obama pushes a button on a table between them, and a black curtain behind them falls to the ground to reveal that Galifianakis had actually been taping the show in the Diplomatic Room at the White House.  Galifianakis thanks the President for the interview and then adds, "Thanks for letting me shoot my show here all these years."

Obama asks, "Who gave you permission to do that?" Galifianakis responds, "Bush."

Meanwhile, the health care plug appeared to work for the Obama administration.

To say that "Between Two Ferns"  is an unusual outlet for a president is an understatement.  The show has a reputation for getting raunchy, and being very unscripted.

For example, when Justin Bieber appeared on set, Galifianakis told him, "Your dirty young punk attitude is not gonna work in this interview."

The comedian then called Bieber out for urinating in public, and then took off his belt and started whipping Bieber, telling him he didn't really think Bieber's mother would mind.

Galifianakis also made waves when he asked actress Natalie Portman for her phone number, and whether she shaved her private parts.

CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta contributed to this report.


Filed under: Health care • Healthcare • President Obama
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Frank Lee

    "Between two ferns"

    That's not being fair to ferns.

    March 11, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  2. Fair is Fair

    A joke of a president selling a joke of a law on a joke show. How fitting.

    March 11, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  3. Harold Read

    Obama can't go toe-to-toe with legitimate reporters and had to turn to comedians for interviews.

    Q: When was the last time he stood before the White House Press Corps, and not have his flunky puppet Carney push Adminiatration Lies and Smokescreens. Guess the TelePrompter crew can't type fast enough.

    March 11, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  4. C.W. Harris

    Say "G", I've enjoyed and President Obama talk/interview this morning (3/12/14 for me). "O"s response this is the last time YOU will be interviewing a President (BLACK)!" ... Has me in stitches-of-choking-LAUGHTER!! 😳😜😃

    March 11, 2014 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  5. Fair is Fair

    In all seriousness, though...

    The questions Zach Galifianakis asked Obama were completely disrespectful to the President and to the office of the Presidency. The questions I have are these – WHO thought it was a good idea for the President to do this and WHY did he go ahead and do it? Totally beneath Obama to associate with a show like this. Not a wise move whatsoever.

    March 11, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    A joke of a president selling a joke of a law on a joke show. How fitting.
    ----------------------------–
    You've developed a habit of telling bad jokes. But, hey, if Republicans want to run against the ACA, then I strongly encourage them to do so. Their image is tarnished enough as it is over the ACA. Most liberals and moderates look at the conservative war against health care reform as something that's turned into a pursuit for a Phyrric victory.

    The arguments against the health care reform law have become neurotic in too many cases. Much of the rest of the arguments are either outright lies, or blatant hypocrisies. Most of the Koch funded ads are riddled with lies. Some smarter Republicans have finally figured out that you cannot be for repealing the law while claiming the law took health care away from millions of people. Why? Because repealing the law would mean that Republicans would be taking health care away from at least ten times more people than what the ACA ever could have done.

    March 11, 2014 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  7. WKNDTHG3

    Get over it, sticks in your craw that he can fit in any where... and hold his own.

    March 11, 2014 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  8. Ben

    He knows he is still the president...right???

    March 11, 2014 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  9. Enough is Enough

    How fitting for the President to be pitching his healthcare disaster on a site called "Funny or Die".

    @WKNDTHG3 – fits in everywhere except where it matters – being the President and acting like it. How's the whole international diplomacy thing working out for him? Not very well from where I sit....

    March 11, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  10. Gurgyl

    @Rudy NYC, god bless you. Very good point.

    March 11, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  11. Rainband

    Between Two Ferns.

    I'm 65 and I got it. Not everyone over 40 has lost their sense of humor.

    March 11, 2014 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  12. Tampa Tim

    Republicans who watched CPAC this weekend, and did not think their party has the world laughing at them, are reality challenged.

    March 11, 2014 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  13. jabberwolf

    Rip off the young and healthy to pay for others... what he tired of going after the rich, he has to now go after the young to pay for his screwed up ideology?!

    Oh yeah THATS SO FUNNY. Because we all know those who are 20-35 have tons of excess money struggling in a career and livelihood for some joke of a healthcare system.

    March 11, 2014 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    Tampa Tim

    Republicans who watched CPAC this weekend, and did not think their party has the world laughing at them, are reality challenged.
    ----------------------
    Well, I, for one, didn't laugh at them. I was busy watching golf and perfecting my recipes.

    March 11, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  15. Wake up People!

    I thought it was funny and showed our President's wonderful sense of humor. And nothing Zach asked him was more disrespectful than the way the GOP elected officials have.

    To me going on talk show after talk show bashing the POTUS during these treacherous times is the most unpatriotic, traitorous thing they can do.

    But hey it's the GOP and THEY can do and say anything they want.

    To be fair Fair you never miss an opportunity to put THIS POTUS down. And anyone that thinks she is fair, is wasting their time conversing with her.

    March 11, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  16. Smitty

    Does this dude ever work??? More interviews and speeches?? Wheres the jobs pivot ?? Obumbles is a total failure on all fronts.

    March 11, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  17. Oh the funny

    Republicans on CPAC talking about religion and invading and guns and generally being white male "patriots". Take a look at Between Two Ferns and you will thusly see why Republicans are so far away from th eyouth vote

    March 11, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  18. bobo

    Question..... Why is Lois Learner taking the 5th? Is she guilty of targeting Conservative groups? Who is she protecting?

    March 11, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  19. Wake up People!

    Bobo, first Lois Lerner is a REPUBLICAN appointed by BUSH. That said, it is the IRS's job to scrutinize groups that ask for tax exempt status. Both conservative and liberal groups were scrutinized equally.

    Good lord, people getting mad at the IRS for actually doing their jobs.....

    And btw, this story is about the ACA.

    March 11, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  20. sonnie3

    Funny or Die? WoW our Hussein obama is a real joke to stoop so low. Time for leadership and quit trying to win elections. We need less Bull and more Steer.

    March 11, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  21. Ol' Yeller

    @bobo

    "Question..... Why is Lois Learner taking the 5th? Is she guilty of targeting Conservative groups? Who is she protecting?"

    I'll answer this, but doubt you will be satisfied....
    Why is Lois Learner taking the 5th? Her 5th Amendment right, just like christie's staff.
    Is she guilty of targeting Conservative groups?
    Nope.
    Who is she protecting?
    Herself, from derwood issa's attempt to sabotage her and make her look bad because he has nothing on her or anyone in his incessant and nonsensical "investigations" (which in case you have failed to notice, are all partisan)

    March 11, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  22. Sniffit

    "Why is Lois Learner taking the 5th? "

    1. Because Issa won't give her immunity and the GOP/Teatrolls in congress have made very clear that they want very badly to lynch someone with a criminal show-trial if they can.

    2. She's a GOPer, appointed by Bush. The evidence has already shown that there was targeting of progressive groups and that the GOP/Teatrolls can't prove that there was any political motivation to target groups in the manner they claim (the only "political" motivation is the fact that the regulations prohibit political activity by these groups in the first place). By claiming the 5th while Issa refuses to grant immunity, Issa and the GOP/Teatrolls are able to throw up their hands and claim "we just can't get to the bottom of it and the question is never getting answered"...which allows the accusations to stand and the conspiracy theories to flower. Fact is, given what the evidence (and lack thereof) has already shown, Issa and the GOP/Teatrolls don't actually WANT to "get to the bottom of it" because all indications are that their accusations will be firmly disproven. They'd much rather she claim the 5th, refuse to give her immunity and then allow everything to remain in limbo so their base can believe whatever nonsense Breitbart, Limbaugh and WND can come up with.

    March 11, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  23. Rudy NYC

    bobo

    Question..... Why is Lois Learner taking the 5th? Is she guilty of targeting Conservative groups? Who is she protecting?
    -------------------------------
    1. She's not stupid enough to testify in front of Issa's "fact finding" sessions. His words, not mine.
    2. No, she's guilty of trying to hard to do her job. Liberal groups were targeted, too, but Issa isn't asking those questions.
    3. She's protecting herself from Issa's "fact finding" sessions. Issa's hearings resemble The Inquisistion.

    March 11, 2014 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  24. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    A joke of a president selling a joke of a law on a joke show. How fitting.
    ----------–
    You've developed a habit of telling bad jokes. But, hey, if Republicans want to run against the ACA, then I strongly encourage them to do so. Their image is tarnished enough as it is over the ACA. Most liberals and moderates look at the conservative war against health care reform as something that's turned into a pursuit for a Phyrric victory.
    ------–
    Hey... if the Democrats want to run defending the ACA, then I strongly encourage them to do so.

    March 11, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  25. dale

    Hey, don't pojnt out Lerner is a GOP APPOINTEE, THE REPUBLICAN GUN NUTS HEADS WILL EXPLODE! OH, AND WHEN DID THEY EVER STAY ON TOPIC AND POST COMMENTS RELEVANT TO THE STORY WE'RE READING? ALL CAPS FOR THE ALL CAPS CROWD! LOL.

    And Obama held his own and wasn't disrespected. It's a satirical interview program. He gets it, as do most people with a clue! The ACA is good if you can get it and your state gives a damn about the poor. For those who don't, well, back to ER for basic care....

    March 11, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
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