President Obama’s always had a knack for comedic timing. There’s the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, where he’s eviscerated everyone from Donald Trump to Matt Damon. He’s slow-jammed the news with Jimmy Fallon on Late Night. And he’s even called Kanye West “a jackass.”
But early Tuesday morning, the commander in chief went for his broadest comedy swing yet: an appearance on Zach Galifianakis’s parody series Between Two Ferns. The show, airing on the Funny or Die website, is a so-awkward-it’s-funny parody of ass-kissy celebrity-interview shows. Set literally between two ferns and shot public-access-style, the hirsute Hangover star’s sketches have become viral sensations, with some garnering tens of millions of views. He’s spanked scowling pop star Justin Bieber on the butt with his belt, gotten into a slap-fight with Bradley Cooper, was called “fat” by Jennifer Lawrence, and once asked Natalie Portman if she shaved her “V for Vagina.”
Obama’s segment was shot two weeks ago, and it doesn’t disappoint. Over six-and-a-half minutes, the two throw loads of shade at one another.
“I’m sorry I had to cancel a bunch of times,” opens Galifianakis. “My mouse pad broke last week, and I had to get my great-aunt some diabetes shoes.”
“Zach, it’s no problem,” deadpans the president. “When I heard that people actually watch the show, I was pretty surprised.”
The banter comes fast and furious. Galifianakis asks Obama about pardoning a turkey in 2013, to which he replies, “Was that painful for you? Seeing one turkey taken out of circulation—a turkey that you couldn’t eat?”
Later, Galifianakis asks, “How does it feel to be the last black president?” before prying about the two-term rule. “If I ran a third time, it would be sort of like doing a third Hangover movie,” Obama shoots back. “It didn’t really work out very well, did it?”
Galifianakis didn’t let the president off the hook, asking if he’ll build his presidential library in “Hawaii or in Kenya,” and asking where his birth certificate is. And, when Obama asks if the host’s heard of the Affordable Care Act, Galifianakis says, “Yeah, the thing that doesn’t work? Why would you get the guy who invented the Zune to design your website?” After Obama gives his spiel about young people signing up at Healthcare.gov, the bearded comedian responds, “Is this what they mean by drooones?” before quipping, “I don’t have a phone… I don’t want you people looking at my texts.”
“First of all, Zach, no one’s interested in your texts. Second of all, you can [sign up] in person.”
The episode, as is its wont, ends with a little twist.
President Obama’s appearance on the show may seem out of left field, but the president has an endgame here. It’s a desperate attempt by Obama to urge the distracted youth of America to sign up for health insurance on the government’s website, Healthcare.gov, before the March 31 deadline for 2014 enrollment.
“We have to find ways to break through,” Dan Pfeiffer, the president’s senior adviser and chief communications strategist, told The New York Times. “This is essentially an extension of the code we have been trying to crack for seven years now.”