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Obama’s Funny or Die video cited for boost in traffic to U.S. health-care site

This image from video released by Funny Or Die shows President Obama, left, with actor-comedian Zach Galifianakis during an appearance on "Between Two Ferns."

AP

The White House is crediting Zach Galifianakis's six-minute mock online interview of President Barck Obama with a spike in traffic to the U.S. government's health-care insurance online portal.

"Funny or Die video has 11 million views. Healthcare.gov traffic for [Tuesday] was up almost 40% from Monday," tweeted Tara McGuinness, a senior communications adviser with the White House. According to a tweet from the portal's main account, more than 890,000 Americans visited the site Tuesday.

The White House added that Funny Or Die, the online home of Between Two Ferns, was the top referral site to Healthcare.gov on Tuesday.

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Still, some critics felt that the encounter, in which Galifianakis mocked the initial failed rollout of Healthcare.gov while Obama mocked Galifianakis's The Hangover Part III, sullied the office. "He wasn't funny. He died," quipped Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz, in a blog posting on Wednesday.

But Jay Carney, the chief White House spokesman, defended Obama's appearance. "The President's interview with Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns was designed to reach Americans where they live," Carney said in a Tuesday press briefing. Speaking to a number of reporters from television networks, he said: "I think what it says is that gone are the days when your broadcasts, or yours, or yours, can reach everybody that we need to reach."

Carney said: "I can assure you that the Funny or Die video will be one of the reasons we get young Americans to healthcare.gov, one of the reasons we get young Americans to enroll in health insurance programs, but not the only way."

He added: "We're constantly looking at different ways to reach Americans who don't necessarily get information about healthcare.gov from evening news broadcasts or from the newspapers, but who might either watch the town hall we did last week with Spanish-language networks, or watch Funny or Die, or watch some of the other things we've done."

As of noon Wednesday, the video had more than 12 million views. The best-performing episode of Between Two Ferns, featuring Justin Bieber, has 17 million views. It was posted last September.

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About the Author
Senior Media Writer

Simon Houpt is the Globe and Mail's senior media writer, charged with covering the industry's transformation. He began his career with The Globe in 1999 as the paper's New York arts correspondent, covering the cultural life of that city through Canadian eyes. More

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