Meeting the Man!

JibJab9-crop-lowIn 2007, my brother and I had the incredible honor of meeting President George W. Bush when we premiered a video satirizing the news media at the 2007 Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner.

Back in 1999, when we started the business, we never would have believed that someday we would have the opportunity to entertain a sitting US President.

Fast-forward a year and a half and Ivan Goldberg, the wonderful woman who manages the RTCA dinner every year, sent an email introducing us to Heather Dahl, Chairwoman for the 2009 event.  They wanted to know if we would consider doing a video for the 2009 dinner.

Entertain the next leader of the free world with one of our creations?  HELLS YEAH!

Following the inauguration there was an air of invincibility surrounding Obama. Sure, the world was falling apart, but it had all just fallen in his lap and he hadn’t had enough time to either help or hurt the situation.  These two facts made it very difficult to find a comedic angle.  Then we realized that the absurd expectations WAS the angle.  We would turn Barack into a super hero.

After three grueling months of creation and production we were ready to show our creation to the leader of the free world.  We were even more eager to meet our second President.  That meeting almost didn’t happen.

The tradition at the Radio & Television Correspondents Association dinner is for the President to attend the VIP gathering beforehand.  I guess Barack Obama’s plans for “change” in America included not following the RTCA traditions.  A few days before the event we got a call from Ivan who told us that Obama was not going to attend the pre-dinner reception where we were scheduled to meet him.

To say we were bummed out would be an understatement.  That said, we understood that the POTUS is a pretty busy guy and probably had more important things to do than hanging out with two guys who spent three months creating something to make fun of him (like monitoring the election crisis in Iran).  Luckily, Ivan Goldberg wasn’t going to give up that easily.

“That man is not leaving the building without seeing you boys”, she told us before hanging up the phone.  A few days later we heard back; we would meet the President on his way out of the building.

When we arrived at the dinner, Ivan gave us the plan.  As soon as John Hodgeman started his performance, she would grab us and lead us backstage.  That’s exactly what happened.

Ivan led us through the maze of tables towards the curtains that shielded the President’s entrance into the banquet hall (and soon to come exit).  It was surreal to be guided past people like David Axelrod, at the next table, and countless media luminaries, all looking up at you and thinking, “Who the @#$% do you think you are getting up and walking out while the President is being entertained?”

We dipped behind the curtain and landed by the service entrance for an industrial kitchen.  We could see the President 20 yards away, on the stage, watching John Hodgeman’s performance.  We had been deposited directly in his exit path.

I remember thinking at the time that it was funny that someone would be so busy that they would have to have people positioned in their path to maximize use of every second of every day.  Then I thought, “Of course, he’s that busy.  He’s the leader of the free world you moron!”

Behind the curtain there were numerous Secret Service agents buzzing around.  That said… you got the distinct feeling that you didn’t see the half of it.  Like if you made one wrong move a flying secret service ninja would come out of nowhere and kick your ass.  Hard.

While Evan and Ivan chatted with a secret service officer (who was telling them something about an incident with a lady trying to bring her Chihuahua into the event), I chatted with a nice guy named Jordan who worked on the President’s advance team.  Jordan told me this wasn’t the first time the President had seen our work.  He had been in the room in the past when the President was watching.

Suddenly, the entire organization snapped into action.

JibJab4-crop-lowSeconds later, the President stood up on the dais and we heard the applause of the audience on the other side of the curtain.  He stepped down from the stage, waved, and made his way along the edge of the curtain shielding him from the audience, towards my brother and me.

As he got closer (but before he noticed us), Evan heard him say to a guy he was walking with, “I have to get a copy of that that CD.”  Then, when he looked up and saw us, two things were obvious.  First, he must have recognized us from when we stood up to take a bow after the video screened and, second, he really enjoyed the video.

“HEY GUYS!”

He had a really big smile on his face as he extended his hand for a shake.

“I can’t wait to show this to the girls.”

As we stood there exchanging hand shakes, my fragile brain was trying to wrap its arm around the fact that the leader of the free world was going to show our video to his kids.

“Come over here”, the President said to Evan, who standing two down from him.

JibJab3-cropWhen Evan came over the President put his arm around him and we all posed for a few photos.  As the President lowered his arms, we exchanged a few more seconds of small talk.

He told us we do excellent work. I think I remember telling him, “So do you”, which is an exceptionally retarded thing to say to a President.  (Unless you have stood in the presence of a POTUS, don’t judge! It’s intimidating!)

After that, Barack bid us adieu, heading out with his entourage of secret service agents in tow.  As Evan said in the voicemail that we recorded moments after it happened to make sure we wouldn’t forget, “It was a ridiculously awesome experience.”

Having met both a Republican and Democratic POTUS, we can say it’s an amazing honor to meet a President, regardless of his political affiliation (or ours). We are grateful to the JibJab team for all of their efforts that helped to make the night such a big success!

20 Comments

  1. Posted June 24, 2009 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Whoa! That looks wicked awesome! Must have been a great experience!

  2. Posted June 24, 2009 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    It’s interesting how you guys go out of your way to present yourselves as non-partisan. Totally get it and respect it. You guys do great work.

  3. TexarkanaBaby
    Posted June 25, 2009 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    I am soo happy for y’all. I can hear the excitement in Evan’s voice…in fact I can hear the biggest smile beaming from his face! WOOO! HOOO!!!!

    A big ol’ ^5 to the Brothers and JibJab staff!!

  4. marc
    Posted June 25, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Hello from France, the video is so well done, great graphics, good job

  5. jason
    Posted June 25, 2009 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    that’s really cool that he would take the time to meet with you guys. it is however, a shame, that you don’t know the difference between there, they’re and their.

    • Team JibJab
      Posted June 25, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Ouch – point well taken, Jason. We’ve made the fix — at least we hope so — and thank you for pointing it out. In our defense, we’re still so incredibly excited about meeting the POTUS that our grammar skills have slipped; we hope you’ll forgive us.

      • Kourtney Franke
        Posted April 13, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

        We all make mistaken and error when writing and speaking but thats what makes us HUMAN. Thanks for sharing with us and I envy you all having a chance to meet the POTUS it has to be an experience you both will never forget regardless of your political views. I wish more people could adopt that attitude and put into practice as well. After all he like the rest of us rather American or not are human.
        God bless you both.

        Lady K.

  6. Pierre
    Posted June 27, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    You have nice and smart ideas and a pleasant business. I wish you a more brilliant future and to your business an ever lasting expansion. I liked your very nice work “He’s Barack Obama”, a nice ad that shows your abilities. I hope that this ad will convince many, so that they join your existing customers. In a satirical way, you pointed out the difficult tasks expected from him to deliver to the citizens of his nation. Among those huge tasks are the fight to tackle the unemployment rate that skyrocketed from last year. Unemployment rate is even more horrible among minorities and especially the black community. With or without recession, that rate never came back from the “sky’. One of the main reasons, among others which keep things unchanged, is the unwillingness of CEO’s and managers to do their duty to their society. In his June press conference, the President, when asked about what should be done to overcome the problem of unemployment among black community, mentioned some successful experiences of training unemployed and under-qualified persons and expressed his intention to help expand those experiences to other neighbourhoods and cities. But, whatever his willingness to push things ahead for the well being of his citizens, a one hand never claps. Superman needs you! At the end of your ad “He’s Barack Obama”, one can see clearly that YOUR EMPLOYEES ARE ALL NON BLACKS EXCEPT ONE PERSON. For a nation with 15% African American, that’s weird. Computer work is not rocket science nor artistic work, and the black community showed their ability to deliver. Impressed by Obama? Please impress your society as well! Do your duty by making money and being a responsible entrepreneurial leader vis-à-vis your society…. And YES YOU CAN.

    • oh boy
      Posted July 23, 2009 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      give us all a break with this same ‘ol s#@it, I hire people that are good and talented and so does jibjab and many others.

      These today so called minorities should first understand that by keep thinking of themselves as minority will never change the way the “majority” sees them.

      If you’re good eventually you’ll do fine but if YOU THINK you’re good and should get a job just because you are part of a minority you’ll eventually fail.

      But we keep missing the fact that we are all humans, that’s all that matter.

      P.S. I was born in Ghana, Africa and I’m a human being!

    • Kourtney Franke
      Posted April 13, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

      LOVE THE POST.
      THANK YOU.

      Lady K

  7. Pierre
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I see that you have removed a post where I expressed an opinion, with all the due respect, about a problem that hurts the large community of African Americans, and which you contribute, among many many other business owners, to perpetuate. I will re-post the same post. If removed again, I will post it in every possible channel of communication. I really thought that you were smart enough to accept the fact even if it hurts ….

  8. pierre
    Posted June 28, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    !

  9. Posted June 29, 2009 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    fantástico!!!

  10. Posted June 30, 2009 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    That is such a wonderful story. Thanks so much for sharing in such detail.

    And I don’t mind one little (now fixed) typo in such an overall well-written piece–and I’m a professional writer and editor. :)

  11. Posted June 30, 2009 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    You are two very lucky SOBs! And you did it all by being slackers. :)

    I guess all the hard work does pay off, and for you guys, in spades.

    Bravo!

  12. Posted June 30, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Forgetting all the political stuff and from an Artist who is not an Obama fan…..I love your video. Really talented people putting it together. Like a Disney snipit!!! I hope you guys go far. Oh, not sure if the Voice mail is working right now, can you check it out? And, who cares if you guys can’t spell,,,,we all have our special talents but we can’t be good at everything. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, don’t listen to the negativity. God bless, Sherrie

  13. Posted July 1, 2009 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    GREAT WORK….CONGRADS…ON A JOB WELL DONE!!!!

  14. Cairo
    Posted December 5, 2009 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    The Animation! Its… So… Professional Looking! It’s hard to believe you guys are the same Jib Jab I knew, it doesn’t look like you anymore!

  15. Teriqua Joy
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I hope he maintains our freedom in this country. After reading this, I have more respect for him (as a person). It’s good to see that he doesn’t take things too seriously. I figured he be uptight about his presence on JibJab. But I like him better as a real person than as a president. I think it’s adorable that he can’t wait for his girls to see the JibJabs! That will probably make the kids more excited than Dad’s job
    Why??? BECAUSE JIBJAB RULES!

  16. Posted May 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Why do they call it “getting your dog fixed” if afterwards it doesn’t work anymore? =)


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