When Two Ferns Meet
It should not come as a shock that the Far Right was outraged -- outraged, I say! -- that President Obama went on the...well, it doesn't really matter does it? Whatever he did they would have been outraged. (Outraged, I say!) In this case, it was him going on the comedy Internet show, Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifanikas, on the "Funny or Die" website.
I must acknowledge that I wasn't sure myself if it was a great idea, though a) not being sure also means I also saw the positive side of it and was just undecided, and b) I most-certainly wasn't even close to being outraged. And I did find it very funny -- albeit odd. Of course, in the end, it turned out quite successful effort, with traffic at the healthcare.gov website up 40%, which was the whole point and greater good.
If you haven't seen it, here's the show --
Funniest of all, though, was the faux outrage by the Far Right -- how this demeaned the Office of the President. In fact, several presidents have gone on comedy shows previously. They go on variety shows like The Tonight Show, Late Night with David Letterman and Conan. Personally, I think the Watergate scandal and being forced to resign as president demeaned the office. And starting an unauthorized war with no provocation or evidence which lasted a decade demeaned the office. Trying to get young people to sign up for health coverage (and succeeding) might be a questionable tactic for some -- but demeaning the office is another matter entirely.
Mind you, the funniest outrage of all came from Bill O'Reilly telling us what Abraham Lincoln would have done. Given that Lincoln was known for his ribald humor (and disparaged for it by his opponents), I think Mr. O'Reilly is on shaky grounds under the best circumstances. But given how much society and technology has changed, it's pretty hard for anyone to assure us what someone from 150 years ago "would have" done today. Especially someone like Bill O'Reilly who got plenty enough wrong in his book about Lincoln. Let alone wrong in what he says about President Obama.
Two of the best rebuttals to the Far Right "outrage" came from Rachel Maddow and Stephen Colbert. I think I liked Maddow's more because it cut through conservative claims with facts to show how actually-wrong they are. But there's a lot to be said for Colbert's pure ridicule.
First, here is Rachel Maddow's segment, "Debunktion Junction." One clarification -- she appears to bunch Richard Nixon appearing on Laugh-in as another example of a president going onto a comedy TV show, but in fact Nixon was not president yet, but was the official Republican nominee for president. Not the same thing. But certainly of a related stature. (To anyone on the Far Right wanting to say "That's TOTALLY different and not the same AT ALL -- I ask what the reaction would have been if it was Barack Obama going on a show like Laugh-In? Methinks it would be outrage at demeaning the office of the presidency...)
The segment continues on after she finishes the "Between the Fern" segment, so you can stop at any time.
And finally, here's the Colbert Report. By the way, he tosses in a nice, little homage here to an old TV series in the mid-1970s, that's so subtle it slips by most of the audience, especially since they likely haven't heard of it. When referring to Between Two Ferns, he calls it Between Two Fernwood 2 Night. For those who recall the show, that should bring a smile. For those scratching your head, this was a spin-off from Norman Lear's soap opera parody, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, which took place in the fictional town of Fernwood, Ohio. The spin-off was a fake talk show, hosted by Martin Mull with Fred Willard as his clueless sidekick (and the composer Frank DeVol as the wonderfully-odd music director, Happy Kyne), that mixed fictional characters with occasional real-life celebrities, a precursor in many ways to The Larry Sanders Show. And in some ways, setting the stage for Colbert's own program.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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