President Obama Pitches Healthcare on “Funny or Die”

By Alexander Keiser,
Domestic News Writer

It has become no question that Presi­dent Barack Obama has been struggling with reaching the numbers that he was aiming for in his original healthcare bill called Obamacare.

In an effort to get younger individu­als to sign up for the new health care plan, Obama made an appearance on comedian Zachary Galifianakis’ digital short “Be­tween Two Ferns.”

The short video clip was posted on Tuesday, March 11, on the comic website “Funny or Die” with the intent of reach­ing a younger audience of people ages 18 to 34.

Dan Pfeiffer, the president’s senior adviser and chief communications strate­gist, told the New York Times, “We have to find ways to break through to a larger audience.”

The Obama Administration is try­ing to make one final push to increase the number of enrollees in the health care plan as the March 31 deadline for enroll­ing for 2014 approaches.

The president’s appearance seemed to work. According to the Associated Press, the video reached one million views with­in the first three and a half hours and was adding more viewers at a pace of one mil­lion per hour during the day.

In only six hours the video already had four million viewers, and by night, it had reached more than eight million views.

The Obama administration said the “Funny or Die” website navigated 19,000 people directly from the video to the health care website, briefly making the website a number one source of referrals to Health­care.gov.

According to the Associated Press, the president opened a new avenue for presidential communication by bypass­ing the conventional news media and TV talk shows. President Obama was able to exceed the typical audience he would get by appearing on late night television shows like David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, Jim­my Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert.

While late night hosts Fallon and Kimmel may attract younger audiences than some TV shows, the median age, ac­cording to the Associated Press, is 52.7 and 56.2 respectively.

“Funny or Die,” which was launched by Will Ferrell and others in 2007, how­ever, attracts an even broader audience. According to the Associated Press, “Funny or Die” has 19 million visitors a month, 7.8 million followers on Twitter and 5.5 mil­lion likes on Facebook.

Other “Between Two Ferns” videos average 6 million viewers each.

President Obama’s appearance on the digital short did bring some criticism; Fox News Channel’s Brian Kilmeade, host of “Fox & Friends,” said the video was in­appropriate and “pretty tragic.” However, President Obama is not the first president to try to reach larger demographics of people.

According to the New York Times, in 2008, George W. Bush taped a “good luck” message for an Iraq war veter­an who was competing on the NBC game show “Deal or No Deal.”

Bill Clinton appeared on MTV in 1994 and was famously asked whether he preferred boxers or briefs.

In 1976, Gerald Ford recorded the opening for “Saturday Night Live.”

The Associated Press even com­pared President Obama’s appearance to Richard Nixon’s appearance on the comedy show “Rowan & Mar­tin’s Laugh-In.”

Mike McCurry, who served as Mr. Clinton’s press secretary in the 1990s, told the New York Times, “We have to worry about the dignity of the presidency,” but “the shifts in the popular culture and the way peo­ple are entertained and get informa­tion almost mandate new strategies.”

President Obama has boldly tried new strategies, according to the As­sociated Press, by doing interactive Web appearances with LinkedIn, Google, Twit­ter, and now the “Funny or Die” interview.

Obama is hoping to increase expo­sure for the healthcare bill with different tactics. The presidential hopefuls for 2016 will be definitely taking notes.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Mar. 25 print edition.

Contact Alexander at
alexander.keiser@student.shu.edu

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