President Obama on Late Night

So, President Obama was on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last night, and it was interesting. Video of the interview is available here. The President, appearing at UNC Chapel Hill, did really well selling his support for not increasing interest on student loans, and I thought when he said that he and First Lady Michelle Obama, who both funded their law school educations with student loans, only paid off those student loans eight years ago was a remarkable moment. Especially because it wasn't designed to be one.

He is a politician running for reelection, so he talked about the importance of education and left out the yucky bits like how education is not really the great equalizer we all pretend it is, and how it sure as shit doesn't guarantee young graduates a job these days. I personally believe it would have conveyed strength, honesty, and integrity to acknowledge these problems and address them straightforwardly, rather than evade them, especially since it's not like not speaking these realities is fooling the people affected by them, but there's only so much time in the show and he did have to make an appalling joke about how he's surrounded by women (Michelle and their daughters) and sometimes has to retreat to the presidential man cave with Bo (their male dog) to watch Sports Center and drink beer. (Really.) (Ugh.)

I did genuinely love when he talked about how he enjoys the Key & Peele sketch in which he has an "anger translator." Given the number of times we've all thought, "I wonder what he'd really say, if he could," it was both funny and moving to get an insight into the frustration he has bearing the usual weight of the presidency, with the added burden of wanting to never play into the bullshit stereotype of the Angry Black Man.

Overall, the appearance basically followed the same pattern as the rest of his presidency: I found him likeable and disappointing. (Which, given that the only other opinion I've had of any president is "unlikeable and disappointing," is a pretty good track record.) I just seriously wish he'd can it with the "man cave" material. Jesus Jones.

Here's my favorite bit, in which President Obama Slow Jams the News with Jimmy and Tariq.

Jimmy (at his desk): You might have seen this in the news—President Obama has asked Congress to stop the interest rates on Stafford student loans from going up this summer. [cheers and applause] Yeah, yeah, I was gonna make a joke about this news, but I don't think it needs a joke. You know what I'm talking about, Tariq?

Tariq: Yeah, Jimmy. I think you're saying you wanna slow jam this news. [cheers and applause]

Jimmy: That's right—I wanna slow jam the news! And I'm not the only one!

[The stage curtains open and President Barack Obama walks out to sustained cheers and applause. Jimmy walks over to greet Obama; they shake hands. The President smiles and waves at the crowd.]

Obama: I'm President Barack Obama [cheers and applause] and I, too, want to slow jam the news.

Jimmy: Hit it presidential-style! [The Roots play "Hail to the Chief," then segue into their usual slow jam riff.]

Obama: On July 1st of this year, the interest rate on Stafford student loans, the same loans that many of you use to help pay for college, are set to double. That means some hardworking students will be paying about a thousand dollars extra just to get their education. So I've called on Congress to prevent this from happening. What we've said is simple: Now is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people. [applause]

Jimmy: Awwwwww yeahhhhh. [laughter and applause] You should listen to the President. Or, as I like to call him, the Preezy of the United Steezy. [laughter and applause; in the background, Obama nods] Things were heating up inside Congress' chambers, behind all those closed doors, so the President made a few discreet calls across the aisle. He said, [sexy voice] "Hey—let's get together on this one. Without an affordable Stafford loan, where can a student turn? The Pell Grant is a beautiful thing, but, with college getting more expensive, is it enough to satisfy all your collegiate needs? Aw, PELL no!" [laughter and applause]

Tariq [singing]: Aw Pell no. If Congress doesn't act, it's the students who'll pay / The right and left should join on this like Kim and Kanye. [cheers and applause]

Obama: Now there's some in Congress who disagree; they say keeping the interest rate low isn't the way to help our students; they say we should be doing everything we can to pay down the national debt—well, so long as it doesn't include taxing billionaires. [cheers] But that position is that students just have to make this rate increase work. Frankly, I don't buy it!

Jimmy: Mmm mmm mmm. The Barackness Monster ain't buying it! [laughter and applause; Obama nods] We all know our legislative body's in the House, tossing and turning late into the night, but still Republicans disagree—and could even filibuster. But if they do, the President said they're gonna feel it buster. [applause; Obama nods]

Tariq [singing]: The GOP is steady saying no, no, no / They should find something new to do like Tim Tebow. [applause]

Obama: The reason it's so important to keep down costs is so we keep college affordable.

Jimmy: And the President knows his stuff, y'all. That's why they call him the POTUS—which means [turns to Obama] What is it—?

Obama: Jimmy, POTUS stands for President of the United States.

Tariq [singing]: He's the POTUS with the mostest! [cheers and applause]

Obama: Let's keep the rates down on college loans!

Jimmy: The loan you save may be your own!

Tariq [singing]: Let's get it / Together / And make our lives better / 'Cuz a college degree / Is more than a few letters / If college loans rise / We'll have financial blues...

Jimmy: And THAT is how we slow jam the news!

Obama: Oh yeahhh. [wild cheers and applause]

Jimmy: Give it up for President Barack Obama!

[President Obama walks over to Jimmy and they shake hands. Obama drops his mic in the nerdiest way ever. Jimmy laughs and drops his mic. Obama laughs.]

True Fact: When Obama dropped the mic, I laughed for TEN MILLION YEARS!

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