In the aftermath of the shooting in Charleston, President Barack Obama took a break from leading the free world to have a down-to-earth conversation with comedian Marc Maron on his WTF Podcast. He discussed his upbringing, what keeps him optimistic, the struggles of racism in America, and what he does to annoy Michelle. Here are 10 things we learned about Obama along with some photos from the interview. (Visit the Marc Meets Obama site for more photos and info.)
10. He’s a regular dad
Obama says he marvels that his girls, Sasha and Malia, have escaped the bubble of the presidency he’s stuck in. They go to the mall, have sleepovers and do other normal things. Malia is learning to drive, and has started chaffing at Secret Service protection. With a laugh, he says he reminds her that the only reason she can stay at her friend’s house until 11:30 is because the SecretService is there to drive her home. She’s crazy to think he would pick her up in the middle of the night.
9. He’s a fan of Louis CK and Richard Pryor
When Maron asked Obama about his favorite comedians, he was quick to cite Richard Pryor, who was influential when he was growing up. He also cites Dick Gregory, “when he was on the edge.” In terms of contemporary comedians, he likes Seinfeld and Louis CK, who he says has a good heart, despite all the messed up stuff he says.
8. He believes we are better now than we were four years ago
He quotes the old Ronald Reagan line, “are you better off than you were four years ago?” He believes we are, citing various examples, from saving people’s 401Ks, to reducing our carbon footprint, to helping high school graduation be the highest it has ever been. He’s particularly proud that LGTB rights have been recognized and solidified in a way no one could have imagined a decade ago.
7. He’s optimistic for change
He talks about supporters who express disappointment with his various accomplishments, because they didn’t go far enough. He says progress in a democracy is never instantaneous. You’re not going to fix everything all at once, you just have to try and steer the ship slowly in the right direction.
6. He’s the weak link on the basketball court now
Obama says, almost wistfully, that he barely plays basketball anymore. It used to be a favorite past time, and a way to stay in shape, but he’s gotten older and lost a step. Now, when he plays, he’s the old guy on the court, and the weak link. He doesn’t like being the weak link.
5. He’s pro gun law reform
Obama talks mournfully about the recent shooting in Charleston, saying the legal system will deal with the shooter, but the larger problem needs addressing. When other countries, like Australia, have had similar incidents, they drastically changed the laws and the shootings stopped.
4. He believes racism hasn’t been “cured”
“We are not cured of it,” Obama told Maron. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘n—er’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.” Obama is very candid about racial tensions in America, but says he prefers to view them within the context of the change that has happened, and the change that’s still capable of happening.
3. Michelle finds his lateness annoying
When Maron asked the president what Michelle finds annoying about him, he was quick to say his lateness. He used to roll in 10 or 15 minutes late to everything, and it drove Michelle wild. But he points out that, in a marriage, fights are usually about more than the obvious. In this case, Obama talks about Michelle’s father, and his battle with Multiple Sclerosis. He had to show up early to everything, just to make it there on time. This was instilled in his daughter, and led to her frustration with her perpetually late husband.
2. He found Congress’ reaction to Newtown “disgusting”
Obama says the response to the shooting in Newtown was the closest he’s come to being disgusted as President. The fact that 20 six year olds were gunned down, and Congress did nothing, infuriated him. He notes, sadly, that real change to our gun laws won’t happen with this Congress. At least, not until the people’s voices are heard.
1. He’s out of f–ks to give
Obama says that the more time he’s had on the job, the more comfortable he’s gotten with it. Much like a comedian on a stage, he’s grown fearless. That’s why he feels like he’s a better president, and would make a better candidate, than he’s ever been. He’s not just faking fearlessness any more. He feels it.