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Obama Turns To Comedians To Promote Health Coverage

Posted: July 23, 2013

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After being spurned by the NFL, the Obama administration is wooing Jennifer Hudson, Amy Poehler and other big names in entertainment for help in getting younger people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. It's a strategy used in the 2008 and 2012 elections.

Comedian Sarah Silverman helped get out the vote for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Comedian Sarah Silverman helped get out the vote for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Who needs jocks when you've got Jennifer Hudson and Amy Poehler?

That seems to be the message coming out of the White House following a star-studded meeting yesterday led by White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. Its mission: Figure out how to help promote the Affordable Care Act.

Among those reportedly in attendance: Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, Emmy nominee Amy Poehler, actors Michael Cera and Kal Penn, and reps for Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys, and Bon Jovi.

The goal of the meeting, which featured a drop-by from President Obama himself, was to share ways to get Hollywood's help in reaching out to a younger demographic to sign up for health insurance starting this fall.

This comes less than a month after the NFL rejected the Obama administration's plan to recruit pro football stars in the effort. That came after the GOP's top two senators sent what could be deemed a threatening letter to NFL officials.

"Given the divisiveness and persistent unpopularity of this bill, it is difficult to understand why an organization like yours would risk damaging its inclusive and apolitical brand by lending its name to its promotion," wrote Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., and GOP Whip John Cornyn of Texas.

Mike Farah, president of the comedy website FunnyorDie.com, told Shots that "I would love nothing more than for them to send us a letter like that."

Farah was at the White House meeting Monday (his first in the actual West Wing, he said) and pronounced it "awesome." He says he finds it odd that senators would "actually send a letter trying to discourage a group from paying attention to a new law."

He said he's personally excited about the impact that FunnyorDie, with its estimated 60 million video views per month, might be able to make in informing its mostly younger audience about the need to sign up for health insurance.

"Kids aren't thinking about health care the way they should," he said. "It should become like safe sex or putting on your seat belt. It's not that big of a deal."

Of course, in the hands of FunnyorDie it's likely to be, well, funny. The writers are known for their topical and sometimes political humor, including (questionably tasteful) 2008 and 2012 get out the vote videos for Obama starring Sarah Silverman.

Farah's on the road this week, but says his writers should get to work next week on their Obamacare videos. He wouldn't disclose any possible stars, but said to expect the first round of health-related humor sometime in mid to late-August.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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