Obama's 'Between Two Ferns' Sketch Grinds Republican Gears, As Expected

On Tuesday morning, Funny or Die posted a “Between Two Ferns” interview with President Obama. The bizarre piece mainly consisted of Obama and host Zach Galifianakis tossing passive-aggressive insults at each other for six and a half minutes, interspersed with an extended pitch for the Affordable Care Act. The somewhat surreal skit, which involved Galifianakis showing Obama a skin rash and Obama bashing the third Hangover film, was the most successful launch video in Funny or Die’s history, hitting a million views three hours and 25 minutes after it was uploaded, and three million views by hour six.

However, Republicans were outraged at the genuinely amusing sketch, because — wait for it — it contained a plug for Obamacare.

Now, both Obama and Galifianakis openly acknowledge that the interview is an advertisement for the Affordable Care Act. There’s been no attempt to hide this fact; the Washington Post reported last summer that Funny or Die was planning to produce an Obamacare promotion, and the White House spoke openly to Mashable about planning and producing the segment. Nevertheless, the GOP was not pleased, because it’s apparently unacceptable for the president use social media and humor to promote one of his domestic policies.

“The current state of affairs across the globe.” That’s generally the kind of phrase you hear from someone who doesn’t follow politics, not a sitting congressman. But Weber wasn’t finished:

For a while, it was a joke that the GOP tied every issue of the day back to Benghazi, but the GOP is well-past self-parody at this point. “Benghazi,” for all intents and purposes, has become the entirety of the Republican Party platform.

Others solemnly mourned the death of dignity in government:

Senor — who, as a former advisor to George W. Bush, knows all about dignity in the White House — is confusing petulant declarations of self-importance (“I make great leaps forward”) with dignity, but all right. At least Taylor Bigler of The Daily Caller admitted that the piece was funny before bashing it.

The real reason conservatives are outraged at this interview is probably twofold. One, it’s a promotion for Obamacare, which is the devil incarnate, but more importantly, it’s a brilliant and highly effective promotion for Obamacare.

Unlike just about any other politician in America, Obama has both impeccable comedic timing and a keen grasp on social media. Humor is, of course, subjective, but the video’s comedic value has been more or less universally praised.

“Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: President Obama delivers a performance here that rivals any of the other professional actors who have appeared on the web series before him,” Tyler Coates writes at Flavorwire. “This isn’t groan-worthy, the kind of performance that would bring up scarring memories of a teacher or principal embarrassingly trying to ‘be hip’ in a PTA skit. Rather, it’s a reminder of what endeared Obama to a fresh generation of voters in the first place: he’s actually cool.”

Even the conservatives bashing the sketch aren’t doing so on the grounds that it’s not funny. They’re doing so on the grounds that it offends the dignity of the office, or distracts from Benghazi, or some other nonsense.

What’s more, though, is the fact that Obama — or perhaps somebody in his inner circle — understands that doing a segment on Funny Or Die is probably one of the best possible ways to direct young people to HealthCare.gov. Sure, he’ll subject himself to a modicum of embarrassment at the hands of Galifianakis — but if that means more millenials sign up for Obamacare, it’s a price he’s more than willing to pay.

While it’s still too soon to say for sure, the gambit appears to have been a success:

Basically, Republicans don’t like the fact that Democrats are better at social media than they are. They don’t like the fact that Obama's faux-celebrity status, and they definitely don't like that he's used this status to successfully promote the Affordable Care Act. The GOP has been bitter at Obama's cool factor since at least 2008, when John McCain attacked him for being "the biggest celebrity in the world." That's all this criticism boils down to.

Outside of the GOP, most tweeters seemed pretty pleased with the spot.