Obama 'Between Two Ferns' show up for an Emmy. Deserved?

The Obama episode of 'Between Two Ferns' is not the show's best work, some fans say. But it has been viewed online 22 million times and now is an Emmy nominee. If it wins, it wouldn't be a White House first.

Funny Or Die/AP
This image from video released by Funny Or Die shows President Obama with actor-comedian Zach Galifianakis during an appearance on 'Between Two Ferns,' the digital short with a laser focus on reaching people aged 18 to 34.

It’s true – President Obama’s appearance on “Between Two Ferns” has been nominated for an Emmy in the category of short-format live-action entertainment programs.

Remember that show? It first aired in early March. Mr. Obama sat for a faux interview on the satirical talk show, which stars actor Zach Galifianakis and is posted on the “Funny or Die” website. The president promoted the virtues of the Affordable Care Act for eligible enrollees. Galifianakis played his typical “Two Ferns” role, that of an uninvolved, apparently unmotivated, outrageous interviewer.

“Sorry I had to cancel a few times last week,” Galifianakis said at one point. “My mouse pad broke. I had to get my great aunt some diabetes shoes.”

“No problem,” replied Obama. “When I heard that people actually watch this show, I was pretty surprised.”

Sitting on a cheesy set between, yes, two potted ferns, the pair bantered for a few minutes. Then Galifianakis sighed, and asked Obama what his plug was, as if the president was pitching a new cable access show.

America’s chief executive then switched to the points on Obamacare the White House has tried to emphasize for young people: that it costs less than their cellphone (for most), and that when it comes to health issues, they are not invincible.

“Did you say ‘invisible?’ ” asked Galifianakis.

Then the set collapses, which shows they are filming in the White House Diplomatic Room. The host informs the president that’s where they’ve always taped.

“Who gave you permission to do that?” asked Obama.

“Bush,” says the “Hangover” movie star.

Is this Emmy-worthy? Well, it has seemed funny, or at least watchable, to lots of folks. It’s had some 22 million views since March, making it the most-watched “Two Ferns” yet. The White House claims it boosted traffic to the then-troubled HealthCare.gov website by 40 percent on the day it debuted.

But not everybody sees it as the show’s best work.

“An Emmy nod? The Obama ‘Between Two Ferns’ wasn’t even one of the best BTFs. It’s like Nobel all over again,” tweeted Aaron Blake, Washington Post "The Fix" blogger.

He’s referring to the controversy over whether Obama had done enough to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize he won in 2009, in case that’s escaped your memory.

Meanwhile, some conservatives were furious, seeing this as just another episode in what they see as the longest-running aspect of US filmed entertainment: its liberal tilt.

The right-leaning "Ace of Spades HQ" blog opined (satirically) that it might be time to rewrite the laws so Obama could bestow the Presidential Medal of Freedom on himself.

“That would be the Ultimate Obama Moment,” wrote "Ace of Spades."

Look, the Obama BTF has not actually won, remember. It’s just a nominee. It’s up against some stiff competition – programs such as “Parks and Recreation” – and some, uh, less-distinguished nominees, such as the Super Bowl halftime show.

And it’s not as if White House residents have not won Emmys before. In 1962, first lady Jackie Kennedy won a special Emmy award for her filmed tour of the newly renovated White House, which was hosted by CBS newsman Charles Collingswood but eventually broadcast on all the big US networks, to staggering ratings.

Mrs. Kennedy later said the show was a turning point for her, because everything about her personality that had previously been a negative – her penchant for speaking French, her reticence, her soft voice – suddenly became on asset on TV. The JFK Library has the Emmy award in its holdings today.

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