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Obama sits 'Between Two Ferns' with Zach Galifianakis

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
Yahoo News

In a bid to get young people to sign up for health care, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president in U.S. history to appear on "Between Two Ferns," Funny or Die's intentionally awkward interview series hosted by comedian Zach Galifianakis.

Seated between two ferns, Obama — identified on screen as "Community Organizer" — fielded interview questions he likely has never faced in the White House briefing room.

"In 2013 you pardoned the turkey," Galifianakis began. "What do you have planned for 2014?"

"We'll probably pardon another turkey," the president replied. "We do that every Thanksgiving."

The deadpanning continued from there.

"So how does this work: Do you send Ambassador Rodman to North Korea on your behalf? I read somewhere that you'll be sending Hulk Hogan to Syria, or is that more of a job for Tonya Harding?"

"He's not our ambassador," Obama replied. "Zach, why don't we move on."

"I have to know," Galifianakis said later. "What’s it like to be the last black president?”

“Seriously?" Obama replied. "What’s it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a president?”

The pair traded one-liners throughout the six-minute video, which was shot in the White House Diplomatic Reception Room on Feb. 24.

"Is it going to be hard in two years when you're no longer president and people stop letting you win at basketball?" Galifianakis asked.

"What's it like having a three-inch vertical?" Obama replied.

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President Obama appears on Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis. (Funny or Die)

White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told the New York Times that the president's Funny or Die appearance is part of a push to promote the March 31 deadline for young people to sign up for health insurance on HealthCare.gov.

“We have to find ways to break through,” Pfeiffer said. “This is essentially an extension of the code we have been trying to crack for seven years now.”

Executive producer Mike Farah told Yahoo News the idea for Obama's appearance on "Between Two Ferns," was conceived last July, when Funny or Die met with Obama and other administration officials at the White House.

"I didn't pitch the president right there, because that would've been a little awkward," Farah said.

Instead, Farah pitched Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett last fall when she was in Los Angeles, and had her meet with Galifianakis.

And other than the location and high-profile guest, the shoot was like any other, Farah said.

"We wanted to make it like any other 'Between Two Ferns' episode, that just happened to have the president," Farah said. "Zach wrote a treatment about how he thought things would go, and the president went with it."

"Have you heard about the Affordable Care Act?" Obama asked Galifianakis at one point.

"Yeah I heard about that," Galifianakis replied. "That's the thing that doesn't work."

According to Farah, the video has been already been viewed more than 5 million times. "It's averaging about a million views an hour," Farah said.

It's not the first time Obama has made an appeal to young viewers through comedy. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Obama famously "slow-jammed" the news on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon."