Funny or Die made serious waves yesterday when it brought “Community Organizer” Barack Obama in for its latest episode of the popular webseries Between Two Ferns. More than 11 million viewers showed up on the first day.
But this episode had an agenda. Mr. Obama was there to encourage young people to enroll at Healthcare.gov. As Mr. Obama said in the interview, “I wouldn’t be with you here today if I didn’t have something to plug.”
And it worked:
— Tara McGuinness (@HealthCareTara) March 11, 2014
The project was a long-term collaboration. It all started when Mr. Obama met with “Between Two Ferns” Executive Producer Mike Farah past July.
“The president was reaching out to the Hollywood community to let them know about the need to raise awareness about the law,” Mr. Farah told Betabeat, “It’s a topic that speaks to our audience, and we have a history of doing topical and political videos.”
Anyone thinking this kind of spontaneous media appearance is a feature of new media or the internet age forgets that this move is decades old. For political correspondents, this kind of interview is the proverbial midnight surprise album from Beyonce, and the White House has already had to defend the president’s appearance.
“I think the average video gets something like 6 million views,” Press Secretary James Carney told a room of White House reporters who sounded hurt that Galifianakis got the scoop.
Though they just set out to make “a funny episode that just happened to have the president in it,” Mr. Farah is more than happy with the outsized reaction.
“We had a feeling the video would get some views,” Mr. Farah said, “Hopefully people sign up – it’s why we got together to do this in the first place.”