“He’s done some really good work as a monologist at those correspondents dinners — that’s how he qualifies to be on the show,” Seinfeld told The Washington Post, referring to the annual black-tie gathering of White House reporters.
[Read more about how this happened: Behind the wheel of the Obama episode of Seinfeld’s ‘Comedians in Cars’]
Obama has rarely driven a vehicle — other than a golf cart — in the nearly seven years of his presidency, though he has regularly collaborated with entertainers to tout his policies, burnish his public image or nudge a national conversation. In 2014 he appeared on Zach Galifianakis’s talk-show parody “Between Two Ferns” to talk up healthcare.gov after its bungled roll-out. This summer he sat in Marc Maron’s garage in Los Angeles for a wide-ranging interview that touched on race and racism. Just last week he appeared on NBC’s “Running Wild,” a nature-adventure show with British survivalist Bear Grylls, to voice his concerns about climate change.
After Obama cited Seinfeld as one of his favorite comedians on Maron’s podcast, Seinfeld jokingly suggested that his production team should reach out to the White House. The executive producer of “Comedians in Cars” did just that.
“This was an opportunity to pull back the curtain for Americans on life in the White House,” the White House said in a statement. “The president and Jerry had a unique, candid conversation that focused largely on the lighter side of the presidency.”
After driving, Obama and Seinfeld walked through the Map, Diplomatic and China rooms, then sat down for coffee in a staff dining room in the basement of the White House. The 44th president is Seinfeld’s first guest from outside showbiz. Over its six previous seasons “Comedians in Cars” has featured Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, David Letterman and “Seinfeld” alumna Julia Louis-Dreyfus, among others. The full episode with Obama will be posted online Dec. 30.
“It was out-of-body for me,” Seinfeld says by phone afterward. “I’m not a guy who likes honor. In fact, I hate any kind of honoring. That I get to be a comedian — that’s the honor. But this was an honor: that [Obama] was okay with me, that he trusted me to do some comedy with him in the real White House.”