In a glowing profile marking the 10th anniversary of left-wing political satire website Funny or Die, on Tuesday’s NBC Today, correspondent Cynthia McFadden gushed: “Well, the writers at Funny or Die readily admit to leaning left, but they say their goal is to create comedy that transcends party lines....‘Funny is funny’ is their mantra.”
Calling them “the hottest political jokesters around,” McFadden declared: “Humor with a purpose is what they call it.” A clip played of comedian Zach Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns interview with former President Barack Obama for the site and the reporter enthused: “That Between Two Ferns video led a million people to sign up for ObamaCare.”
Apparently the “purpose” of Funny or Die’s political “humor” is to push Democratic Party agenda items.
Touting “a rare glimpse inside their new comedy war room in Los Angeles,” McFadden proclaimed: “They take their political funny very seriously around here....And one of their secret weapons is this guy....David Litt, a former speech writer for President Obama...”
She took a particularly familiar tone with the former White House staffer:
You were 24 years old when you went to work with the White House....You were a bit of a child prodigy, if I may say so....Could’ve gone to college at 12, 13....Now 31, he’s written a candid and self-deprecating book about his White House years.
At the end of the report, she revealed that Litt was the son of a friend: “Well, full disclosure, I’ve known David Litt all of his life. His mother was my best friend in law school.” So much for detached journalistic objectivity.
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Here is a full transcript of the September 19 segment:
8:47 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Alright, we’re back, 8:47. Funny or Die, a little website founded by Will Ferrell and a few friends, launched 10 years ago.
MATT LAUER: A decade later, you may be surprised at who’s working there. NBC’s Cynthia McFadden’s here with the people behind the laughs. Cynthia, good morning.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: Good morning, everybody. Well, the writers at Funny or Die readily admit to leaning left, but they say their goal is to create comedy that transcends party lines. The highest compliment, they say, is when people from all political points of view laugh. “Funny is funny” is their mantra. Take a look.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Figure of Speeches; Fmr. White House Writer’s New Life in Comedy]
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [ACTOR PLAYING TRUMP]: So, I called this news conference – and you’re gonna – I mean you’re gonna flip over this, you’re gonna love this.
MCFADDEN: They’re some of the hottest political jokesters around, the folks at Funny or Die, with 50 million online followers.
ZACH GALIFIANAKIS [BETWEEN TWO FERNS]: I have to know, what is it like to be the last black president?
BARACK OBAMA: Seriously? What’s it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a president?
MCFADDEN: Humor with a purpose is what they call it.
OBAMA: I’m gonna press this [big red button].
GALIFIANAKIS: Don’t touch that please.
[ALARM SOUNDS AND BACKGROUND CURTAIN DROPS]
MCFADDEN: That Between Two Ferns video led a million people to sign up for ObamaCare.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN B [FUNNY OR DIE WRITER]: It’s also a bill that won’t go anywhere.
MCFADDEN: We had a rare glimpse inside their new comedy war room in Los Angeles.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [FUNNY OR DIE WRITER]: Just make a health care song.
MCFADDEN: A rapid response team to try and keep up with politics these days. The day we visited –
UNIDENTIFIED MAN C [FUNNY OR DIE WRITER]: The biggest story politically right now is Bernie [Sanders] introduces Medicare for all bill.
MCFADDEN: What’s the funny in it? They say watch Sanders’ finger, he makes a lot of good points.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN D [FUNNY OR DIE WRITER]: It’s clear as day he’s typing out socialism, communism.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN E [FUNNY OR DIE WRITER]: He’s doing morse code for socialism, look at the finger.
MCFADDEN: They take their political funny very seriously around here.
DAVID LITT: Because politically it’s still difficult.
MCFADDEN: And one of their secret weapons is this guy.
WOMAN: It’s such an amazing resource to be able to go to David and say, “I don’t get why these things – how these things came together, why they happened.”
MCFADDEN: David is David Litt, a former speech writer for President Obama, who never intended to end up in politics. But as a senior at Yale, a plane trip changed his life.
LITT: There was that little airplane television in the seat in front of me and I saw Barack Obama give a speech. I remember the exact moment.
OBAMA: People who love this country can change it.
LITT: By the time that plane landed, I was ready to do whatever it took to help be a part of that campaign.
MCFADDEN: You were 24 years old when you went to work with the White House.
LITT: Yeah, which at the time I thought was very old. I was like, “I’ve been out of college for two full years.”
MCFADDEN: You were a bit of a child prodigy, if I may say so.
LITT: Well, you may say so, okay.
MCFADDEN: Could’ve gone to college at 12, 13.
LITT: Yeah, I’m glad I didn’t – but yeah.
MCFADDEN: Now 31, he’s written a candid and self-deprecating book about his White House years. You say the President didn’t know your name until the second term.
LITT: He thought my name was “Lips” rather than Litt briefly. I think he thought it was a nickname, I’m not really sure. But the thing is, when the President of the United States gets your name wrong, you can’t correct him. I mean, he’s got more important things to do. So I was like, alright, Lips it is.
MCFADDEN: For four years, Litt was in charge of one of the President’s most high-profile annual speeches, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
OBAMA: I want to especially thank all the members who took a break from their exhausting schedule of not passing any laws to be here tonight.
MCFADDEN: The process involved some dozen writers and 600 jokes. 600 jokes for one speech?
LITT: It’s 600 jokes for one speech. And maybe that speech would end up with about 30 jokes in it. And so, it was a very selective process.
MCFADDEN: According to Litt, presidential humor can play an important role.
LITT: There’s two things to me that jokes can do for a president. One is it’s just a reminder that this person is human, “I’m just a person, I make mistakes.” And so, self-deprecating humor can do that. And the other thing that comedy can do is tell the truth in a way that you’re not always allowed to in politics.
MCFADDEN: And these days, he says, nothing could be more important than that.
LITT: I think young people recognize that our politics right now is not working the way it’s supposed to and comedy is a way of acknowledging that without totally giving up on the system. So having the sense of the absurd but also a sense of possibility and a sense of hope at the end.
MCFADDEN: Well, full disclosure, I’ve known David Litt all of his life. His mother was my best friend in law school. And was David was about – when David was about two years old, he and I were left alone in a room together with a fish tank. And I’m going, “Oh, look at the pretty fishy,” and David proceeded to list the Latin names for all the fish.
MCFADDEN: I said to his mom, “Have you talked to him lately?” Anyway, smart guy, very funny, too. So, who knows?
GUTHRIE: Fun story. Cynthia, thank you.