Barack Obama has forged a role as the pop culture president, logging an unprecedented number of entertainment show appearances for a sitting chief executive – including a controversial stint last month on comedian Zach Galifianakis’ bawdy "Between Two Ferns" web show.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius trumpeted the President’s comedy turn as a serious success for his healthcare campaign – telling The Huffington Post enrollment experienced a “Galifianakis bump” after he traded jibes with the “Hangover” star.
But as President Obama feels the “Galifianakis bump,” Sarah Palin bumps up the blurring of politician and celebrity in her own rogue fashion Thursday with the premiere of “Amazing America," her latest foray into Reality TV.
Palin, of course, is not president. It's unknown whether she ever will be or if she even wants the job anymore, nearly six years after her history-making bid as the first woman on a GOP national ticket.
But John McCain's former running mate keeps finding new ways of staying in the public eye, beyond her gig as a Fox News commentator. Her approach to media also stands in stark contrast to that of Obama, the first sitting president to visit "The Tonight Show" – or Funny or Die, which hosts Galifianakis' "Between Two Ferns" talk show parody.
While Obama sat with Galifianakis to encourage citizens to sign up for healthcare, Palin's new show celebrates rugged individualism. Her initial slate of the amazing includes a professional wrestler (Cowboy James Storm), a champion markswoman (Julie Golob) and a dog musher who participated in the Iditarod while battling breast cancer (DeeDee Jonrowe).
While Obama once famously "slow-jammed" the news, backed by Jimmy Fallon's houseband, The Roots, Palin's new show features a theme by Madison Rising, the self-described "America’s most patriotic rock band" (sample lyric from the “Amazing America” theme: “Red, white and blue is our way of life/Never back down from a challenge or fight”).
While many of Obama's TV entertainment appearances have come on major network programs, Palin's new show is featured on the decidedly lower profile Sportsman Channel (motto: "Red, wild + blue"), which crowns her the “first lady of the outdoors.”
Part of Obama and Palin’s varying approaches to media is a matter of clout. But the differences also stem from the audiences they're trying to reach – and the genres they're using.
The Palins are a Reality TV family. The former vice presidential candidate last starred in TLC's "Sarah Palin's Alaska," which showed off her beautiful state, her photogenic family and her shooting skills (viewers got to see a possible future world leader bag a caribou). Her daughter, Bristol, meanwhile, joined “Dancing with the Stars,” had her own reality show and went on “Celebrity Wife Swap” with Joan Rivers, who once called her mother “stupid and a threat.”
There’s no danger of Rivers of turning up on “Amazing America,” though it’s unclear whether we’ll someday see Sarah Palin on the late night comedy talk show circuit, if she ever runs for – or becomes – president. As Palin seeks a new TV bump, check out a clip below from “Amazing America with Sarah Palin”:
Jere Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.