Obama slow jams the news with Jimmy Fallon. How does that work?

Start with a late-night funnyman. Add a president. Then, talk about something serious – Obama chose student loans – while Jimmy Fallon's house band, The Roots, lays down an R&B rhythm. Punch it up. Laugh. Then, wait to see how Mitt Romney responds.

Carolyn Kaster/AP
President Obama laughs with Jimmy Fallon during a commercial break as he participates in a taping of 'Late Night with Jimmy Fallon' on Tuesday at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

President Obama slow jammed the news Tuesday. He did fine, though he seemed a little ... academic. Of course, he was discussing student loans, which is not an easy topic to croon about over a beat laid down by Jimmy Fallon’s house band, The Roots.

OK, we will back up here and explain this to people who have no idea what we’re talking about, which included us until very lately. Mr. Obama on Tuesday afternoon taped an appearance for Tuesday night’s episode of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” in front of a live college audience at the University of North Carolina. As part of this, he participated in a recurring Fallon bit called “slow jamming the news,” where the funnyman’s band produces a slow R&B rhythm, while Fallon or a guest talks earnestly about something serious, like taxes. Then they build it into a tune via clever lyrics from backup singers.

A slow jam is like those bits of Barry White songs where he’s talking while the band plays in the background, then he rumbles into song about a subject that requires multiple repetitions of the word “baby."

On Tuesday, Obama looked into the camera and said, “Now is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people,” while the band played behind him.

Then Fallon swung into action. “Ohhhh yeah. You should listen to the president,” he crooned, punching up the song.

Last year Fallon did a classic slow jam with NBC News anchor Brian Williams about partisan budget bickering. It was maybe a fuller example of the slow-jamming-the-news genre.

As The Roots played, Mr. Williams said, “With the deadline to reach a deal looming this Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans find themselves at a stalemate over the nation’s debt ceiling.”

Fallon provided bass-voice counterpoint. “Aahhh yeah, I can’t get to sleep this night cuz all that moanin’ and groanin’ on Capitol Hill.”

Then the band swung into the vocals, singing, “Plan after plan keeps gettin’ defeated, the crisis is growing bigger than, uh, we tweeted....“

When we type that, it doesn’t seem as funny as it sounded. Take a look.

Anyway, the obvious point to make here is that Obama is trying his best to appeal to young voters, and to appear hipper and younger in general than Mitt Romney.

What will the Romney camp do in response? Hmmm. Doing a Letterman “Top 10” list would only partially counter the current hipster imbalance. Maybe he’ll get into a push-up contest with the folks on “Fox & Friends."

As for Obama, after the slow jam he traded light quips with Fallon. Fallon suggested that the president trip getting onto Air Force One to get attention. Obama replied “I don’t find that funny." Then Fallon showed college pictures of Obama with an Afro and a fur collar, which the president did find funny.

Material from Associated Press was used in this report.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.