With gridlock on Capitol Hill and war in the Middle East, President Barack Obama is focusing on pursuing one of his longtime interests: comedy.
With weeks to go until the next White House Correspondents Dinner (featuring entertainer…Cecily Strong? who?) Obama has been rolling out a series of comedic performances, ranging from web videos to a big-time appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” He certainly has a wealth of material on the mundanity of daily life, from losing at golf to how corporate lobbyists won’t push for his agenda, to how CEOs don’t like to admit that they have lunch with him. What’s the deal with that?
The life of a professional comedian is not easy and it’s filled with rejection. Obama was mocked by Sony movie executives who said on email that they didn’t want to go see him live. But Obama’s efforts to refine his timing and delivery are starting to gain industry notice. Let’s take a look at some of Obama’s recent bits.
Reading ‘Mean Tweets’ on Kimmel
Consider this Obama’s Stardust Memories, his 8 1/2. He’s a comic crying on the inside, dealing with the reception of the masses, lashing out at that them, like Jerry Lewis in “King of Comedy.”
He’s a man apart with the world, at two with nature. And grappling with the comedian’s archetypal fear: of being left all alone.
In this routine, Obama uses a comic conceit familiar to fans of his repertoire. He’s the outsider going into the presidency unprepared for the pomp and circumstance and high-level intrigue. He’s a comic impostor, W.C. Fields for President, quipping on the dichotomy between his Tramp character and the White House he inexplicably inhabits.
The Selfie Stick
In Obama’s Buzzfeed video, he pairs himself up in a comedy team with some bright-eyed Buzzfeed performer, and the results rise to average! Their comic interplay, glimpsed in the final scene, suggests a chirpy yuppy Spade and Farley. (The “Things Everybody Does But Doesn’t Talk About” premise could have gone to some darker territory, but Obama is positioning himself as a PG-rated comic lead for box-office purposes).
Let’s Move Skit With Michelle
Move over, George Burns and Gracie Allen. The Obamas have worked out a comic chemistry that seems to cut to the very core of their relationship and political association: Michelle works on projects for failed initiatives while Barry wanders in without a tie. Look at her exasperation!
And just like a sitcom husband, he forgets anniversaries just like she probably forgets to brief him on her talks with Valerie Jarrett.
Always eager to workshop with other comic minds, Obama here plays host to a contingent of Internet celebrities including the woman who drinks cereal milk in a bathtub. Like a Marc Maron podcast, their dialogue makes clear the commitment and focus needed to sustain a serious comedy career like Obama’s.
Less deadpan than his previous role on Between Two Ferns, and with less pesky crowd work than his Correspondents Dinner routines, Obama’s recent material hints at some untapped potential. It might be hard to believe but many of today’s top comedy stars once had unglamorous day jobs – kind of like lame-duck president!