Jesse David Fox: Behind The Scenes Of Obama’s ‘Between Two Ferns’
Obama didn’t just do “Between Two Ferns,” he did “Between Two Ferns.” He took host Zach Galifianakis’s harsh burns and hit back with even harsher ones — “If I ran a third time, it’d be sort of like doing a third Hangover movie. Didn’t really work out very well, did it?” — all in the name of promoting the Affordable Care Act. To find out exactly how it happened and what it was like to work with the Commander-in-Chief, we spoke with Scott Aukerman, host of IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang! and executive producer and director of “Between Two Ferns.” He talks about how the White House let them get away with basically everything, how the president was easier to work with than some celebrities, and what it was like to give notes to the most powerful man on earth.
You said the idea had been floated before. Was the president familiar with the videos?
I can’t really speculate as to whether he is a fan of the videos or has seen them at all. Because every time we do one of these, we’re told the person is a fan of it and then you find out that the person has never seen it before. We were told that he took a look at the videos, but the most important thing to me is whoever’s idea it was — whether it was someone on his team or he himself — the fact that they would do it and the fact that they would keep it such a pure experience was really kind of amazing. I mean, they were easier to work with than some people we’ve had on the show before who should have been easy to work with. [Laughs.] So, it was really not only cool like, “Oh, it was cool we did it,” but it was actually a really good artistic experience.
President Obama’s Between Two Ferns Appearance Here
Were there certain things that you had to go back and forth on or cut out?
Zach and I both at a certain point in the process were looking at each other going, “I can’t believe they’re letting us do this,” so pretty much the whole thing — we definitely couldn’t believe it. We kept expecting resistance, but there wasn’t any. It was really an incredible situation. We kept expecting them to say “No, no, no, you can’t have that joke,” or “No, no, no, you can’t be funny, it has to all be about the Affordable Care Act,” but to their credit they really wanted it to be what it was and got out of our way.
Did he pitch jokes?
I don’t think the president has to pitch jokes, he just says jokes and we enjoy them.
Do you remember one thing specifically that you enjoyed?
I just loved how he was going for the jugular with Zach regarding Bradley Cooper. I could tell the president was really enjoying that, and that’s obviously a funny sore spot for Zach. I really enjoyed that exchange.
You directed it. Did it ever feel normal? What was it like to give the president notes?
It was definitely something I was very concerned about. I remember asking someone, “Am I allowed to speak to the president?” And they said, “What do you mean?” And I said, “Well, you know, I’m the director, am I allowed to direct the video?” They said, “Of course!” It was strangely collaborative. It wasn’t that we went in there and did our regular process and they worked with us on it. I think people in Hollywood are so used to getting their own way with how they’re treated in interviews that they’re more difficult than people at the White House, who are just excited to be in there.
Now that the video is out there, have you read any comments from conservatives saying it demeans the presidency?
I’ve seen some tweets about that kind of stuff. Like someone wrote like, “How does the president have time to do this?” And it’s like, how does anyone have time to do anything? The great part about it is, this president knows how to reach young people in a way that no other president has, and it’s very important that he reach young people with this issue. This is so much better and will attract so much more attention than him going on a Sunday morning show and talking about this issue when most people I know of this generation aren’t even up that early on a Sunday morning. The outrage about it is from a different generation, and the younger people really get it.
Vulture (@vulture) March 11, 2014
(@Variety) March 12, 2014