Barak Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a big joke, or at least that is what the president is hoping.
Mr. Obama took to the website funnyordie.com to attempt to garner publicity for the law, commonly known as Obamacare. Appearing on the site’s popular Between the Ferns channel, the president traded facetious insults and barbs with understated host Zach Galifiniakis. The goal? To increase awareness of (and dispel common myths about) the Affordable Care Act and its corresponding website, healthcare.gov.
Reviews of Mr. Obama’s comedic performance have been mixed. On ABC News, Michael Falcone and Ann Compton laud the interview as “hilarious.” Howard Kurtz of Fox News harkens back to President Clinton’s infamous saxophone solo on the Arsenio Hall Show, deriding both as undermining the dignity of the Oval Office. In The New Yorker, Ian Crouch frames the online couch appearance as a “win” in the fight against conservative icon Bill O’Reilly. The critiques continue on, to the point where a Google search of “Obama funny or die” yields over 310,000,000 results. This video is the talk of the nation, and that makes it a very big joke.
But is the joke on Mr. Obama? While the punctilious among us may demur, none can argue that the viral video failed to serve its purpose. As Jolie Lee at USA Today points out, traffic on healthcare.gov was 40% higher on Tuesday, the day after the clip was released. In subjecting himself to criticism of everything from his comic timing to his respect for the esteemed office he holds, Mr. Obama has deftly shifted the focus onto the very law on which his legacy depends. History cares about whether the leader of the free world delivers campaign promises, not punchlines.
Comedy has always been a great catalyst for conversation, and if this publicity stunt continues to drive traffic to healthcare.gov, funny will never die.