President Obama made his first appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s NBC late night show at UNC-Chapel Hill Tuesday night to slow-jam the news with Fallon and The Roots.
“You guys might have seen this in the news, but President Obama has asked Congress to stop the interest rate on Stafford student loans from going up this summer,” Fallon says early in the show.
“ I was going to make a joke about this news, but I don’t think it needs a joke. You know what I’m talking about, Tariq,” Fallon asks The Roots singer.
“I think you’re saying you want to slow jam this news,” says Tariq.
“That’s right I want to slow jam the news. And I’m not the only one!”
Curtain opens. Out walks Obama.
“I’m President Barack Obama. And I too want to slow jam the news!” says Obama.
Obama, taking the Brian Williams role, begins:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: On July first of this year the interest rate on Stafford student loans, the same loans many of you use to help pay for college, are set to double. That means some hard working 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.
JIMMY FALLON: Oh yeah. You should listen to the President – or, as I like to call him, the Preezy of the United Steezy…Things are heating up inside of Congress’s chambers, behind all those closed doors. So the president made a few discreet calls across the aisle. He said ‘Hey, let’s get together on this one.” With college getting more expensive, is it enough by itself to satisfy all your collegiate needs? Ah, Pell no!
“If Congress doesn’t act it’s the student who pay. The right and left should join on this, like Kim and Kanye,” sings Tariq Trotter, aka Black Thought.
PRESIDENT 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. But their position is that students just have to make this rate increase work. Frankly I don’t buy it.
JIMMY FALLON: Mmm-mmm-mmm! The Barackness Monster ain’t buying it. We all know our legislative bodies 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.
“The GOP is steady saying ‘No, no no!’ They should find something new to do like Tim Tebow,” sings Tariq.
After a commercial break. Roots re-introduces Obama with a few bars of “Let’s Stay Together,” the Al Green tune Obama sang back in January at a fundraiser at the Apollo Theater in Harlem – a performance that went viral on YouTube.
Fallon, who’s been giddy since Obama walked out on stage, begins to “interview” Obama. And, by “interview” we mean suggesting Obama deliberately fall while getting off Air Force One because it would be really funny, like the time President George W. Bush choked on the pretzel. Obama says he doesn’t find it funny, but Fallon can’t let it go. They speak a few minutes about the handful of Secret Service “knuckleheads” with the hookers in Cartagena, Colombia, and the press scramble to write lead stories about it, while they move on to some sports references, and Fallon says he really likes Obama’s house -- “it’s a rental,” Obama explains, Fallon giggles. Fallon fishes for a compliment, asking Obama if he’s ever even watched his show and does he like it. Obama sidesteps by making a self-effacing joke about “Groundhog Day” being the last comedy he’s seen.
Finally, Fallon began pitching Twitter questions to Obama.
“The first is from @ BoboBrian,” Fallon says.
“What does Bobo have to say? I woke up wondering what Bobo was thinking,” The president says wryly.
“Due to economic pressures the influence on voters could likely see…oh forget it. Are you going to legalize weed or what?”
Obama laughs. “I figured that’s what Bobo was going to ask,” he says, adding, “We’re not going to be legalizing ‘weed, or what’ anytime soon. But what we are trying to do is make sure that when it comes to drugs we are not just thinking about law enforcement, we’re also thinking about treating it as a public health problem.”
Fallon wonders how Obama’s doing with the whole “stop smoking” thing and then tries to use that to segue into some gag about Colombia and Secret Service scandal and nicotine patches but made a botch of it with all the giggles and gushing. Honestly, we’ve seen more poised tweener girls around Justin Bieber.
“If Mitt Romney was in the room right now, what would you say to him?” Fallon asks, reading another Twitter question.
“I’d say, ‘Hey, Mitt!’” Obama says
Obama’s an old hand at late night TV, though Tuesday’s appearance is his first on Fallon’s show.
In October of 2011, he visited Fallon’s lead-in, Jay Leno, who asked if he had been watching the GOP debates.
“I’m going to wait until everybody is voted off the island…Once they narrow it down to one or two, I’ll start paying attention,” he said, clearly knowing who was his audience.
Wild applause, approving of the “Survivor” reference.
And, in October of 2010, the president visited Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” and clocked that show’s third biggest audience ever — behind only two episodes, in 2008, when Stewart had interviewed candidate Barack Obama, and the time he interviewed the future first lady Michelle Obama.
“Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” is, of course, well-known in political circles as that late night show on which The Roots played Fishbone’s tune “Lyin’ A—B----while then GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann walked out on stage, back in November of ’11.
Musical editorializing is a Roots signature gag on the show. In the past, Roots had played a Milli Vanilli tune by way of introducing Ashlee Simpson — she of the lip-syncing “Saturday Night Live” hoedown debacle, broke into E.U.’s “Da Butt” to welcome Serena Williams, and performed Beck’s “Loser” to herald the entrance of “Speidi” on the show.
But the Bachmann intro tune caused considerable outrage. NBC reacted by appointing Fallon as in-house canary, sending him down the political coal-mine shaft to see exactly how toxic was the air. Fallon tweeted that The Roots’s drummer, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson — who’d taken credit for the tune choice — “is grounded.” That didn’t go over well, so Fallon was sent in again, this time tweeting, “I’m honored that Michele Bachmann was on our show yesterday and I’m so sorry about the intro mess. I really hope she comes back.” Finally, one day later, an NBC programming exec sent a letter of apology, assuring Bachmann that ?uestlove had been severely reprimanded.