Why “Between Two Ferns” Is No Laughing Matter

Cross-posted at The People’s View

As Spandan so ably pointed out in his piece, the Beltway media is apoplectic that President Barack Obama dared to be interviewed by a greasy, fat, long-haired comedian in an effort to promote the Affordable Care Act. This Tweet fairly summarizes majority opinion in the White House press room:

[tweet https://twitter.com/notjessewalker/statuses/443560918715469824 align = ‘center’]

I’m sure Maureen Dowd will have a piece up this weekend on how Obama disparages the dignity of the office of President by engaging with a low-brow actor from the “Hangover” series. Jay Carney was bombarded by questions on the day the interview hit the Internet, with reporters Very Concerned ™ that President Obama debased himself by not conducting an interview with one of the main network anchors, which should be the appropriate route for any President who wishes to speak with the public.

Of course, the hypocrisy is so blatant it’s laughable. Remember this video, shown at the Nerd Prom in 2004?

Do watch the entire video. While ordinary citizens were enraged at the joke, as this Guardian article explains, one would be forgiven for thinking that the assembled good and great of the press thought it was a bang up jape, one of their own laughing at those he sent to their deaths on, well, a bald-faced, blatant lie. Because, really, the thought of those sent to kill and die for the US, and the people overseas whom they kill, can’t be allowed to ruin a wonderful evening of self-congratulations.

It was quite appropriate for the previous Commander-in-Chief to make tasteless and abysmal light of the casus belli which dragged the US into a war which should never have been fought, killing more American citizens than died in 9/11, slaughtering countless Iraqi civilians, and burdening the country with debts financial, political, and moral. But, of course, you’d want to have a beer with the previous occupant of the White House. However, a sane, conscientious, genuinely good man, who is also President, using new media to push for his signature legislative achievement? There is the true tastelessness, if the cries from the fevered corners of network offices are to be believed. Obama again sullies the office, as he did when he called Vladimir Putin on the first Saturday of the Ukraine crisis while dressed in jeans.

It’s become more or less a truism that the establishment media is a corrupt institution which imbibes Republican memes and disseminates them to its audience. Thus why they laughed at Bush searching for WMDs in the White House, but look askance at Obama going on “Between Two Ferns”.

But there is no “unbiased” media. What the Internet has allowed is a flourishing of what used to be called “the yellow press”: very biased, very opinionated journals which made no secret of whose side they were on. The big papers—New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times—still make a pretense of being unbiased. And of course, parroting the government line should be the brief of no news organization. However, assuming that the government—or anyone—is lying, and then crafting your reporting to expose the “lie”, is neither fair nor unbiased. You’ve gone into the story with a preconceived notion. The Obama Administration purposely allowed Benghazi to happen. The administration was in complete charge of the Cincinnati IRS office. Obama “lied” about being able to keep your health policy under ACA. Even I, a mere librarian, know that good journalism should involve taking a premise, and then examining it from all sides, until things can be said about the premise. Instead, we have a media which seems to have taken lessons from Glenn Greenwald: the government by default lies, Obama is the worst practitioner of this, and your job is to assume the lie and expose it fully.

Obama’s appearance on “Between Two Ferns” was brilliant. He reached an audience which does not watch the 6.30 pm news summaries. It’s an audience which doesn’t sit down and watch CNN for any amount of time, unless Anthony Bourdain is on. It’s the audience which most needs the benefits of Obamacare: young, starting out in life, and needing the security of access to health care.

And this is what scares the mainstream media. For decades it churned out replacements for the audience which died out. What it faces in this coming generation is a group which has no use for its product. As wonderful as Rev. Al Sharpton is on MSNBC, my 20-something nephew and niece are not watching him. They don’t even own televisions. And yet they’re as informed as their middle-aged uncle, because we all get our news from sources other than television.

The cultural and information industries which seemed so secure, so dominant, are slowly withering away by the onslaught of technology and a changing view of the world. They’re looking at a digital world which is already here, and have not a clue on how to deal with it. So they laud the old certainties of the past (the tough Texan joking about war and death), while seeking to cut down the president who has embraced and embodies the new world.

Of course the media would be aghast at Obama going on Zach Galifianakis’ show. He doesn’t need them. No one does.

134 Responses to “Why “Between Two Ferns” Is No Laughing Matter”

  1. 1 Allison
    March 12, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Thanks, LL

  2. 2 carla4obama
    March 12, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Seriously? Please proceed MSM>

  3. 3 Nena20409
    March 12, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Good Evening TOD.

    Thanks for the Post LL.

    Indeed, it was No Laughing Matter.

  4. 4 Nena20409
    March 12, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Over 13M have seen the Video.

    ODS also has ENVY as part of the Severe decease.

  5. 5 Allison
    March 12, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    The MSM are thankfully becoming extinct. Non-traditional media is the way to go. President Obama and his team have been aware of this for a long time.

    • 6 MightyPamela
      March 12, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      Which is exactly why net-neutrality is critical, and the Internet must remain free and accessible. The potently wealthy want to own everyone and everything, what we say, how we think, even whether or not we get to laugh if they don’t give permission first. It could come to that.

  6. March 12, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Thankfully, we are done with GWB.

  7. March 12, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Oh hai, thanx Chips, I was busy doing research on the best way to cook baby back ribs in the oven. Because I’m a librarian. And I have a new set of knives.

    • March 12, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      I’ve got to stop reading comments too quickly LL, I saw that as “I was cooking babies in the oven”, and I was quite alarmed.

      Thank you for another wonderful post Mister, my gawd, that Bush video……

      • March 12, 2014 at 8:32 pm

        I remember watching that at the time and just sitting stunned. This was the Leader of the Free World acting like an utter and complete moron.

        • March 12, 2014 at 8:36 pm

          It was one of those moments – so many with him – when I laughed at him at first, but was then really scared. As Amk tweeted today:

          • 12 carolyn
            March 12, 2014 at 9:05 pm

            The most frequent question we were asked in England in 2008 was: How could you elect that man TWO times!!! After we assured them we did NOT vote for him either time, we allowed as we couldn’t understand it either. It was totally embarrassing to visit other countries during his administration. When we got to Italy in 2009, people SMILED at us when they knew we were American……a BIG change!

  8. 14 nospin
    March 12, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    POTUS was awesome. No amount of spin with change it.

    The more the msm gets their panties in a wad, the more folks will watch, the more folks will get registered for Healthcare and know that POTUS is the coolest President ever.

  9. 15 Nena20409
    March 12, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    It is Not that Younger Folks hate News or TV. What they get from the current News Media is NOT News.

    I watched a tad of CNN this AM before heading out and all I did was scream when John King came on with 2 so called Journos, both were righties. It was pathetic. There was Zero Context. It was all how the Dems and pres Obama would be DOA in Nov 2014. They used the term 2014 will be just like 2010 all over and anyone who sees it differently is spinning.,,,they opined.

    These same people didn’t make that conclusion when VA went to Dems in Nov 2013. They focused on Christie for over 9 days alone and ignored the Dems. It is time Dems start calling out the media. They also need to be crystal clear in their messaging.

    • March 12, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      As I said, my nephew and niece are very well informed. But they don’t watch mainstream news. They read from various websites, they monitor Google News, and are informed that way. Cable news is nothing but entertainment, aimed at a diminishing audience, mostly kept alive for propaganda purposes.

      • 17 carolyn
        March 12, 2014 at 8:54 pm

        My son and daughter -in-law, and daughter and son-in-law…all in their early forties, also never watch TV news. They use the internet and are very well informed. So……that lack of TV watching isn’t just the under 25 group……..MSM is surely a dinosaur.

        • 18 jackiegrumbacher
          March 12, 2014 at 9:46 pm

          Also, Carolyn, younger people grew up interacting with media, connecting on social sites, playing interactive video games and engaging in back and forth commentary on websites. TV news is passive. People sit and talk AT the audience and it’s clear they’re just reading from a script. Even when they pretend to discuss something, it all seems rehearsed and phony. I grew up with this kind of “news,” but today I find it absolutely boring. I see a talking head on the tv and turn it off. Young people didn’t grown up with this kind of “news” so why should they waste their time watching it.

      • 19 MightyPamela
        March 12, 2014 at 9:14 pm

        I don’t think it even rates as entertainment to the young and savvy – more just boring; these kids are too smart, too fast, and the world they function in does not slow down for anyone. They have to be on their toes all the time, and guess who knows that better than anyone?? Well – PBO!!

  10. 20 nospin
    March 12, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Great post LL. The msm is obsolete and that is as it should be.

    • 21 jackiegrumbacher
      March 12, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      Still, no spin, it’s a shame that the WHPC has to be made up of these outdated types. Would be wonderful to interject some young blood from alternative media.

  11. March 12, 2014 at 8:31 pm

  12. 28 dotster3
    March 12, 2014 at 8:36 pm


  13. March 12, 2014 at 8:42 pm

    OK, Now I Understand Why I Do Not Get This (as) Humor.

    Watch this quote from the interview with

    ‘Was Zach really nervous to kind of be so combative with the president?

    I think in general Zach is such a nice person and the “Between Two Ferns” persona that he has is so antithetical to his actual persona that he tends to be nervous whenever we do one of these things just because he doesn’t like really being a mean person.’

    That did just jump out to me – it felt like it was a set up, a fake, not real – and therefore (in my European eyes) *not funny*.

    Re-watch the ‘Dead Parrot’ Monty Python sketch and you’ll know what I mean: John Cleese *is* the arrogant prick he “plays”.

    • March 12, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      But of course it wasn’t ‘real’ Toon, it was a comedy sketch with the President and Zach, largely directed at a young audience, which the President used to drive home his message about the ACA. I thought it was beyond brilliant, a masterpiece. And look at the impact it’s had, amazing traffic for Healthcare.gov. It worked!

      • March 12, 2014 at 8:53 pm

        The humor, for me, was in the interplay between PBO and Zach. Basically, Zach was PBO’s clueless straight man, and he played that brilliantly.

        • 35 MightyPamela
          March 12, 2014 at 9:22 pm

          Yes. As Scott says in the beginning of his article: POTUS OWNED ForD. I even felt he could have done this without a script, because he is so present and conscious.

      • March 12, 2014 at 8:54 pm

        I do not deny it was effective *for the intended audience* – but it never would have worked in Europe.

        It was too obviously fake – so obvious that it destroyed the embedded humor.

        • March 12, 2014 at 9:06 pm

          Disagree Toon. I can’t speak for continental Europe, but this kind of wit goes down a treat in Britain and Ireland. And I still don’t get what you mean by “fake” – it was evidently a comedy ‘sketch’, no one watching it – surely – believed it was a ‘serious’ interview. Although the ultimate message, about ACA, was perfectly serious.

          • March 12, 2014 at 9:22 pm

            It would have convinced me if it were an interview with a (fake) Fox News anchor (say, B. O’Really). Work in someone [in a fake ad] who pays an outragous price for coverage for [some ordinary medical irritation] and the anchor going all out on the “bad effects of the New Health Care Law”.

            The point of the matter is that the opponents of the ACA are not shy, stuttering persona’s like Zach’s – they’re bloviating know-nothings like the aforementioned.

            Hammer it home – laugh at the ignorance – “this is a fake outrage, it’s defanged, it’s gone, it’s DEAD”; and then cue to the quiet Doctor, with a web address.

            Perhaps it’s even more the difference between the “British” Isles and “Europe”, errr, I mean: “The Continent”, even though, given my preference for an approach like Monty Python’s, that might not even explain it.

            I watched the original, and I only laughed at “Barack Obama (SP?)”, but as I said: It obviously worked for the intended audience.

            • March 12, 2014 at 9:30 pm

              “…. the “British” Isles and “Europe”, errr, I mean: “The Continent”

              Huh, why the snark? That’s how the British/Irish term it, it’s not derogatory, a simple geographical fact, Britain and Ireland are islands separate from the continent of Europe. Simple.

              We’ll agree to disagree. Bottom line: it worked. Beautifully. And it wasn’t targeted at Europe, obviously – although, I do think you underestimate Europeans’ ability to enjoy such wit.

            • 40 Nerdy Wonka
              March 12, 2014 at 9:30 pm

              Zach is not meant to be an opponent of ObamaCare. That’s not what his show is about. That’s not what Between Two Ferns is about.

              You need to watch the other skits in Between Two Ferns. It’s clear you don’t understand what Between Two Ferns is about.

              Young people all over the world love that online show. It’s very popular. Some older folks don’t get it. That’s okay. But it worked and it was successful.

          • 41 hopefruit2
            March 12, 2014 at 9:24 pm

            Damn… 🙂 Chips you said in 3 sentences what it took me two whole damn paragraphs to say…

        • 45 hopefruit2
          March 12, 2014 at 9:16 pm

          It is true that British humor tends to be more nuanced than American, but this was not intended to be a long-term comedy series. The main sell was PBO and the ACA, not the comic value per se. And If you’re a twenty-something American who is not a political junkie and sees relatively little of PBO in a given week – this would actually seem very funny. Remember, we (TODers, etc) spend a LOT of time watching PBO in various settings, at all kinds of events, serious or humorous, so seeing him on this skit is not particularly “new” or surprising in a way that it would be to a 20-something non-political fan.

          Furthermore, this is President Obama – and his persona and natural charisma allows him to get away with things that another individual may need to work harder to accomplish. And as LL said, Zach also did a fantastic job in his role – and together, they made it work. There is a reason this video went viral in such a short time. It wasn’t just TOD re-watching it.

          • March 12, 2014 at 9:33 pm

            “Furthermore, this is President Obama – and his persona and natural charisma allows him to get away with things that another individual may need to work harder to accomplish.”

            Good you mention that – that’s the other thing that felt “fake”. As you yourself imply: We might have seen too much of the President – and know that he never engages in these “tit-for-tat” interviews.

            It is simply hard for me to believe that 20-somethings would be so low-information that they wouldn’t feel it is “unnatural” for the President to behave like this.

            • 48 hopefruit2
              March 12, 2014 at 9:50 pm

              Toon with all due respect, your tone seems a bit patronizing, and I think we need to give our young adults more credit than this. Because they enjoyed seeing our President in this particular context (which is different from going on Leno or Letterman) doesn’t mean they are low-information. Some may be, but many aren’t.

              Obviously, President Obama and his team have a better grasp on the psychology of current day 20-somethings than you do.

              • March 12, 2014 at 10:16 pm

                Again – this is a discussion whether the “interview” was “humor”. The one thing I noticed that it wasn’t humor for me (beyond the “Barack Obama (SP?)” subtitle.

                There is no discussion that it reached its projected audience.

                Perhaps this is just a case of “de gustibus non est discutandem”; and I shouldn’t try to explain “why” I think it’s not humor to me.

                I have a 16-year-old nice who just spent the second half of 2013 in the US – perhaps she can explain it to me.

            • 53 Nerdy Wonka
              March 12, 2014 at 10:14 pm

              It was not a “tit-for-tat” interview. It was a comedy sketch.

              You’re being very condescending instead of admitting you have no clue what Between Two Ferns is all about.

              The audience it was intended for, got it. It went viral all over the world and Healthcare.gov and those who will now have insurance are the beneficiaries.

              You’re an older person. Maybe that’s why you don’t understand such nuanced humor. That’s okay. Humor isn’t for everyone. A lot of older folks watched the sketch and loved it.

              President Obama – more than any other president – is clued in to what the younger generation watches and where they congregate and his Between Two Ferns skit was and continues to be a success.

        • 54 Nerdy Wonka
          March 12, 2014 at 9:26 pm

          That’s not true. The sketch went viral in America, Europe, Australia, Africa, etc. People were talking about it all over the place. People from different countries on social media got the sketch and found it very humorous and effective.

          Traffic to Healthcare.gov had a huge spike.

          It worked. President Obama succeeded.

    • 56 amk for obama
      March 12, 2014 at 9:22 pm

      something like 15 million hits => 1 million aca website hits.

      Mission accomplished, screw the oscars and emmy’s and other such “artistic” self-preenings. Also. Too. over-rated brit humor

      • 57 anniebella
        March 12, 2014 at 11:17 pm

        Thank you LL, amk for obama, Nerdy Wonka, hopefruit2, Chipsticks, MP. I don’t need to add my two cent into the discuss cause you all handle it very well. Proud of you.

  14. 58 Allison
    March 12, 2014 at 8:47 pm

  15. 59 susanne
    March 12, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    thanks for your post lib. sorry, though– i cannot watch shrub being mr funny guy. just had a nice lunch, and the first few seconds of the clip already turned my stomach. how did we get through those years??!

  16. 60 hopefruit2
    March 12, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    Excellent commentary LL!!! The MSM has become an echo chamber of sorts. A group of mostly conservative, affluent folks peddling propaganda that only their fellow MSM colleagues will appreciate. The MSM does not represent the population, in demographics, interests or values. At one time they could easily influence the public to think and vote THEIR interests at the expense of the public’s but that is slowly changing…

    And evidence of that reality is no more stark than with this President who has found and continues to find innovative ways of bypassing the traditional media and rendering their silly “predictions” null and void. That’s why they are constantly lashing out at him angrily with their favorite weapons – (1) manufactured, corporate-sponsored polls taken at such frequent intervals so as to basically render them meaningless, (2) endless punditry and concern trolling about trivial matters, (3) elevation of frauds or numskulls like Greenwald and Snowden, Cheney, Palin, etc – people who appeal mainly to fringe and racist or dangerous elements in the population.

    PBO has given the next Dem presidential candidate a working template not only for running a successful campaign, but for having a successful two-term Presidency. He/she would be wise to follow that template, and ignore the media. The media is hell-bent on destroying that legacy, and heeding the media’s “advice” to distance oneself from PBO is RUBBISH. Terry McAuliffe found that out last year, good for him.

  17. March 12, 2014 at 9:03 pm

  18. 63 JER
    March 12, 2014 at 9:09 pm

  19. 64 amk for obama
    March 12, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    The whole emmessem poutrage is because they have been shown to be completely irrelevant and redundant by this President. None of their schtick, from parroting rethugs talking points 24×7 to propping up a 1%er as the potential prezinent with cooked up polls that would even beat a clock in its sick regularity, didn’t and still doesn’t work.

  20. March 12, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    For anyone who wants a general overview of the issues at the center of the Feinstein/CIA situation with 3 key questions:

  21. 71 amk for obama
    March 12, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Gunners out. Man C out. Thus proving epl is all about gas and hype.

  22. March 12, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    This film will be released in a couple of weeks, directed by Diego Luna.

    • 74 vcprezofan2
      March 12, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      Will that be a general release, Meta, or just in certain areas?

    • 78 purpleshoesla
      March 13, 2014 at 2:03 am

      This trailer just gave me chills. Can’t wait to see this. I’m glad to see more stories of people of color and their historic contribution to bringing about change in the country making it to the big screen.

  23. 79 GGAIL
    March 12, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Well said LL!

  24. 80 hopefruit2
    March 12, 2014 at 9:30 pm

  25. 82 hopefruit2
    March 12, 2014 at 9:32 pm

  26. March 12, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Great post, LL! ……this interview with the director has some similar themes……

    Slate: I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but since the segment ran, Texas Rep. Randy Weber—who is sort of well-known for tweeting angry things—and Bill O’Reilly both criticized it. Weber said that the president should be focusing on Benghazi, not a comedy show. O’Reilly said Lincoln never would have sat down for something like this. Have you seen those criticisms?

    Aukerman: Well, to the first point, about how the president has time to do something like that—it’s kind of ridiculous. People can do a lot of different things in the day. If they were that concerned about the president never doing something that wasn’t serious and connected to his job, we’d elect two presidents. It would be a tag-team situation—one president is sleeping, they slap hands, and the other one gets in.

    I’m certain the president is not slacking off during the day. This is very important, trying to get the people who watch these videos involved in the Affordable Care Act. He has time to talk to young people about what they were doing.

    As to second thing—look, Bill O’Reilly is used to saying kind of stupid things to get attention. There’s not much of a difference between the president appearing on Between Two Ferns and appearing on The O’Reilly Factor. **The difference is that we admit we’re a comedy show.**

  27. 88 amk for obama
    March 12, 2014 at 9:50 pm

  28. 89 amk for obama
    March 12, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    • 90 amk for obama
      March 12, 2014 at 9:59 pm

      Read the article. Where a trailer trash claims this is real ‘murkan dream.

    • 91 Obama Grandmama
      March 12, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      Anyone see Rachel’s spot about the radioactive frack sox that are being dumped illegally in garbage dumpsters, on Indian Reservations, and in an abandoned gas station some 1000x over the safety limit?

  29. March 12, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    All right, finally back. Ribs are in the oven, dry rubbed, and a Manhattan is in my hand.

  30. 110 hopefruit2
    March 12, 2014 at 10:01 pm

  31. March 12, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    So, they are training Mrs. LL to within an inch of her life. She goes back tomorrow and Friday, and she’s not sure she’ll be done even then. Thank you asshole ex Mrs. LL boss for being an asshole. She’s in a much better situation, and you might lose 10% of your assets to an avoidable lawsuit.

  32. March 12, 2014 at 10:13 pm

  33. 127 sherijr
    March 12, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Excellent commentary LL ~ I couldn’t agree more. I hold my biggest disdain for the media.

  34. 128 amk for obama
    March 12, 2014 at 10:17 pm

  35. 129 amk for obama
    March 12, 2014 at 10:20 pm

  36. 131 susanne
    March 12, 2014 at 10:40 pm


    ‘ A New Jersey judge likely made history this week when he released an opinion that found women can keep the biological father of their children out of the delivery room.
    The paper reports that Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed writes that this is likely the first opinion of its kind in the United States .

    Mohammed, the paper reports, based his opinion on two landmark Supreme Court cases — Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey — related to abortion.


    “The high court established in those rulings that an expectant mother has a stronger right over her body and over her unborn child than the father. A court majority in Casey ruled that women are not even required to tell their spouses about abortions, Mohammed noted.

    “The New Jersey Supreme Court has also struck down a law requiring that minors notify their parents before they get abortions, ruling in 2000 that the law infringed on those minors’ privacy rights.

    “In light of the court rulings, Mohammed wrote, it strains logic to ask a pregnant woman to notify the father when she goes into labor.” ‘


  37. March 12, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    Putin gets introduced to the 21st Century ….


    Excellent monograph, as always, LL!!


    Yes We Can

  38. 134 nathkatun7
    March 13, 2014 at 12:12 am

    As always, you essay is absolutely spot on! Look, even some of us oldies are disgusted with the U.S. unethical media. Personally, I no longer watch any Network News, or the 24-7 Cable sensationalism. I still read some papers like the L.A. Times and NYT, but only when I go libraries. i discontinued my subscription in L. A. Times, and the San Diego UT, five years ago.

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