I’m not one who is aghast when Barack Obama goes outside the traditional Beltway press and tries to connect through comedy.
But there is a problem when the president does the web show “Funny or Die” with Zach Galifianakis.
He wasn’t funny. He died.
Which senior administration officials thought this was a good idea?
What’s next, driving around with Jerry Seinfeld in “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”?
There was a time when candidate Bill Clinton played the sax on Arsenio Hall and punctilious pundits moaned that it was unpresidential. Well, the culture has changed.
Obama often seems more comfortable as a pop-culture president than one who muscles legislation through the Hill. He can talk basketball brackets on ESPN, go one-on-one with Charles Barkley, trade barbs with Jon Stewart, hang with the ladies on “The View.” I’ve seen him nail it at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Obama even makes his own videos, as with that jogging-with-Joe-Biden thing.
But with Galifianakis asking him about being the “last black president” and pardoning turkeys, I have to say, this video was a turkey.
About the only semi-humorous line that Obama got off in “Between Two Ferns” was when he was asked if he wished for another term: “If I ran a third time it would be sort of like doing a third ‘Hangover’ movie. Didn’t really work out very well, did it?”
The president subjected himself to the awkwardness to reach, yes, younger people with a “plug” for ObamaCare.
“Oh yeah, I heard about that. That’s the thing that doesn’t work,” the actor shot back.
“Healthcare.gov works great now,” Obama insisted, suggesting that Galifianakis sign up because of an imaginary spider bite.
Maybe the president should stick to his day job.
Now some folks online found it funny, so maybe I’m in the wrong demo. Some people on Fox thought it was wildly inappropriate, which I think overstates the case. Time’s James Poniewozik calls it “a cringe-humor show whose whole idea is playing off staged discomfort with the guest.
And it was a hit in the sense that it got a lot of play Tuesday on cable and news websites.
Will it prompt anyone not related to Zach to sign up for health insurance? White House officials say it was the number one source of referrals to the health care site Tuesday. But the jury is out.
White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told the New York Times that “we have to find ways to break through. This is essentially an extension of the code we have been trying to crack for seven years now.”
It’s good for a president to show his lighter side. Maybe he’s eyeing his next career.
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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.