Tonight marks President Barack Obama’s first appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, but it’s not the first time POTUS has made stops on the late-night circuit. Until former actor Ronald Reagan moved into the Oval Office, it was unheard of for the president to debase his political capital by visiting the same talk shows that trade in celebrities and animal segments. These days, it’s a required a stop on the campaign trail and an extension of the State of the Union address (minus the drinking games).
Indeed, conservative website the Washington Free Beacon reported yesterday that Obama and First Lady Michelle — who appeared on Late Night in February — have overtaken the Reagans as the most televised presidential couple in history. Even after 2008 opponent John McCain dismissively referred to Obama as a “celebrity,” Obama has been unabashed about appearing on a number of talk shows, including The View, The Daily Show, the Today show, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. He’s also filmed segments for programs ranging from The Colbert Report to American Idol and Betty White’s 90th Birthday: A Tribute to America’s Golden Girl. Below, we run down some of his notable appearances.
The Tonight Show (Oct. 25, 2011)
Obama’s most recent visit to Leno’s couch was his second. (He granted The Tonight Show his first major TV appearance post-inauguration back in 2009.) As the 2012 Republican primaries were heating up, Obama was in full-on campaign mode, offering details about the May 2011 take down of Osama bin Laden and the future of Iraq and Afghanistan, among other topics. The gravity of the conversation (considering how many times Leno has featured the likes of Snooki and Lauren Conrad) testifies to the weight that Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, gives to these appearances.
NEXT: Obama chats up David Letterman
Late Show With David Letterman (Sept. 21, 2009)
After his first Tonight Show interview in 2009, Letterman got Obama’s second late-night booking. In an appropriately casual interview, the two men laughed about the growing media circus surrounding Obama’s policies (remember death panels?). Question is, are they still laughing now?
NEXT: A ‘profound disagreement’ with Jon Stewart
The Daily Show (Oct. 27, 2010)
Obama’s visit served as a halfway point check-in and a chance to shore up support for Democrats as the midterm elections approached. Call it a case of win some, lose some as the Republican takeover just days later was the country’s greatest switcheroo in 60 years. On the bright side, the interview scored boffo ratings and showed a much more assertive, forceful Obama than had been seen in other interviews.
NEXT: Returning the favor to Oprah
The Oprah Winfrey Show (May 2, 2011)
Though not a late-night host, Winfrey’s influence proved tremendous in catapulting Obama to the White House. In fact, it’s been estimated that her endorsement earned him a million votes in the 2008 primaries. When Oprah announced the 2010-2011 season would be her last, it only made sense that the First Couple would stop by as a token of their appreciation. For a president whose personal appeal is as great as (if not greater than) his political prowess, this interview continued to reveal Obama’s character and showed off his family. The interview also aired the day after news of bin Laden’s death, amplifying a major moment.
What do you think, PopWatchers? Does seeing Obama on your TV screen make you more or less inclined to support him come November? What’s your favorite Obama talk show moment?