Laughter is the Best Medicine

Meet the Speechwriter Behind Obama’s Best Jokes

DAVID LITT: I’ll never
forget the first speech I wrote for the president where
it was a speech he delivered in Puerto Rico. PRESIDENT BARACK
OBAMA: Buenos tardes. [CROWD CHEERS] DAVID LITT: I remember thinking
how totally bizarre that was. As a speechwriter, you’re
always recognizing that it’s not really my idea, right? It’s inspired by President
Obama, but just the fact that you can sit
down and be part of that is totally surreal. And it never stops
being surreal. LAURA LING: You were
just 24 years old when you started at the White House. How did that come about? DAVID LITT: I did not mean
to become a speechwriter. I didn’t really mean to go in to
politics or anything like that. I was on a plane and we had
just begun our initial descent and I was sort of channel
surfing on the free airplane cable. I saw this candidate
who I had heard of but didn’t know a lot
about named Barack Obama. PRESIDENT BARACK
OBAMA: They said– they said this day would never come. [CROWD CHEERS] DAVID LITT: By the time
that speech was over, I was like, never mind. Whatever he’s doing– I
want to be a part of that. I was totally awestruck. It was really one of
those moments where, like, by the time
we hit the tarmac, I was on a totally
different life path. And that doesn’t happen a lot,
but it was a heck of a speech. PRESIDENT BARACK
OBAMA: You did this because you believed so deeply
in the most American of ideas– that in the face
of impossible odds, people who love this
country can change it. [CROWD APPLAUDS] LAURA LING: What are some of the
biggest challenges in helping to craft a speech for the most
powerful person on the planet? DAVID LITT: You have to realize
how high the stakes are. We would write speeches
knowing that there are people whose full-time
job is to pick apart every single word
the president says and sometimes just to take
things out of context. And that can be
incredibly intimidating. LAURA LING: How do you
even get started working on a speech for the president? What’s your process? DAVID LITT: If I really didn’t
know what I wanted to write, I would try saying it instead. Speeches aren’t
meant to be read. They’re meant to be heard. And so if I felt
like I could start to finish make that argument
in my own words just talking to myself, then I could go back
and begin to shape it in a way where it would make
sense for the president. LAURA LING: What have been
your sources of inspiration when you’re going
through this process? DAVID LITT: Sometimes
what I would do is I would go on YouTube and
pull up that video of that Iowa speech from 2008 and hit play. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They
said this day would never come. [AUDIENCE CHEERS] DAVID LITT:
Rewatching those words and feeling that
sense of both power and responsibility
keeps you going when you wonder whether it’s
all making a difference. I worked on the Obama
campaign in 2008 and all of my
volunteers, when I left, they took one of
those hope posters and on the back
in cardboard they all just signed their names. And so I had a sort
of face the other way where the hope side
was against the wall so that I could
see all the names. It was just this reminder
that what I was doing was not just about my job. It was not just even
about the president. It was about people
in places like the one where I had worked. For me, really,
all of my rituals are about trying to recapture
that feeling I had in 2008, to put you back in that mindset
when you’re 21, 22 years old and you’re absolutely sure
you can change the world, and you’re pretty sure
you can do it tomorrow. LAURA LING: You’ve worked
on a number of White House correspondent dinner
speeches which are known for highlighting
the president’s humor. How has comedy
been a tool for you in terms of getting a
political message out? DAVID LITT: Well, one of
the interesting things over the last eight
years is getting people’s attention has become
harder and harder and harder. I wrote some speeches on climate
change that I’m very proud of, but they didn’t have
a huge audience. We did something with
Luther, the anger translator, and President Obama got really
upset over climate change deniers in Congress, and
that had 40 million views on Facebook. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Rising
seas, more violent storms– LUTHER: You got
mosquitoes, sweaty people on the train stinking it up. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] It’s just nasty. DAVID LITT: Something
that’s funny just gets people
to pay attention. It gets people engaged. LAURA LING: President Obama
has amazing comedic timing. DAVID LITT: He really does. The president can hold a pause
for just the right amount of time that there’s a
little bit of tension and then cut it
was a punch line. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Being
president is never easy. I still have to fix a
broken immigration system, issue veto threats,
negotiate with Iran, all while finding time
to pray five times a day. [AUDIENCE LAUGHS] Which is strenuous. DAVID LITT: Then there’s
also just moments when you write
something, whether it’s a joke or a more serious line
of argument that breaks through in some way and becomes part
of this national conversation around an issue. And a lot of the time,
that’s a team effort, but to be one part of that
team– it’s a special thing. LAURA LING: What
have you loved most about working with the
president, President Obama? DAVID LITT: Well, I think there
is– there’s just something extraordinary about
working for somebody who is such a good writer,
such a good speaker, and has the ability to
just walk into a room and create memories that
everybody else is going to remember for a lifetime. And so you get to be part of all
of these life-changing moments in little ways and big ways. And that is– when I walk into
a room, that doesn’t happen. So that was nice to get to
play a small part in that. LAURA LING: How do
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump differ when it comes
to giving political speeches? Be sure to watch this episode
of Seeker Daily to learn more. Clinton is trying to reach
out to younger voters who may not be familiar
with the Clinton legacy. And this may take a
little extra effort than it would take
Trump, who already has an established
television presence. DAVID LITT: I think for somebody
who is by her own admission not a natural performer, she is
trying to get better and better and focus attention
where it needs to be. LAURA LING: Thanks for
watching Seeker Stories. Please subscribe for
new videos every week.

100 thoughts on “Meet the Speechwriter Behind Obama’s Best Jokes

  1. Obama was the JOKE… He was a filthy black liar and a traitor, and he should be prosecuted for crimes against the people of America……OBAMA IS AN ABSOLUTE DISGRACE TO THE OFFICE HE HELD. He was a lazy, weak , incompetent President that sucked at his job. Thank God he s gone.

  2. You want to know what Obama and Hilly and family thinks of you, this is what they thinks of you. GMO food gives you cancer shut down vital organs rots the gut , fluoride in your water make you docile you can't think straight messes up your thyroid. Gives you cancer. Abortion 53 million babies dead since 1975 , Vaccines that kill 250,000 children a year. Chemical trails look up "fun Vacc "on YouTube see what the DOD is been doing to your brain , Who does he work for not you and he works for the illuminati they are depopulating , how do they do that through war , famine , medicine food , water , air how did they do that , they control the media and governments and your minds. congratulations you're a slave of the zombie elite , that have been depopulating you , since they got in power which is over 100 years ago. So go take their medicine eat their food and watch their propaganda , oh by the way those illegal drugs yes they come from the illuminati too. Oh by the way pizza gate yeah that's how they get the The politicians to do their bidding they force them to. Then they blackmail them. Congratulations you've just gotten a free education that hasn't lied to you your whole life. They make you think about all this shit to keep you occupied and they're doing a damn good job of it.

  3. Nice video, though probably the most autistic comment section I have ever seen. Right behind Joey Salad's lovely content.

  4. One of the biggest liars to date, mass Murderer of thousands, starter of wars. And same people/media still fall for him. Please, wake up

  5. President Obama is an intelligent and educated man. Stop bad mouthing about him for having a speech writer. All presidents have a speech writer because they are swamped with other important tasks to attend to. There are plenty of conferences and events where people asked him questions randomly and he answered them with class and humor. Listen to Trump….Big difference! Cheers from Canada.

  6. Obama team was composed of stupid little kids with unrealistic ideas! Hillary was the worst campaigner- even worst than Kerry/Edward ticket.

  7. everyone has a speech writer, like come on. trump needs to hire one sounding like a dumb ass everytime he opens his mouth

  8. I have to laugh to spare myself despair. The amount of care and thought that went into their speeches and the amount of foresight to even "think" how it might be perceived, misconstrued is totally run over by the current President who at times clearly puts less thought into what he is about to say than auto-correct does, and its a computer program. Ah to have someone who thinks before they speak (even for a second) seems so old-school now and I am sure there are a select group that like the current status quo because they perceive it as anti-pc and/or honesty and not just complete carelessness, risky, stupidity, ignorance or unempathic.

  9. Want to hear more about David Litt's experience in the Obama White House? Watch on IVYtv:

  10. “In the face of impossible odds, people who love this country, can change it.” Hmm kinda sounds like something that happened just last year. Everyone had Donald Trump down and out before the election but the people that want to make America great again came out and pulled off what was thought to be impossible! MAGA

  11. "You did this because you believed so deeply in the most American of ideas"…. And then Trump took all that and tossed it out the window, and set the bar pretty damn low for the next guy.

  12. obummer's presidency was one big joke.

    Trump 2020! More accomplished and more approval in less than 2yrs than 8 of obummer!

  13. Every president has a speech writer helping organize his thoughts. The only difference now is Trump doesn’t listen.

  14. Why would there be a speech writer for Trump? The mouth just runs with no connection to what is left of a brain. Yap yap yap yap yap. Dirty hole.

  15. Obama was definitely a cool cat. And funny too. But policy-wise, he's the worst president in the last 100 years. Carter breathed a sigh of relief when Obama beat McCain, because he knew he wouldn't be known as the worst president of our time. Romney should've kept blasting Obama after their 1st debate but he backed off and lost. Didn't vote for Trump, but he's killing it . Regular Americans may or may not like him, but they love what he's doing.

  16. It's sad. a leader should use his own words out of sincerity and wizdom. Instead they're all puppets reading from a teleprompter.

  17. I don’t understand why they call the president of the us the most powerful person on the planet all the time. Like by why is he the most powerful? By what standards?

  18. So he got off the plane after watching the speech and decided he wanted to get the job he hadn't ever thought about before? What happened between him getting off the plane and being employed by the white house…

  19. Our Presidents have always had such hard working people helping to shape the nation with powerful words. So sad how far we have fallen

  20. I kept thinking of Sam Seaborn explaining how the SoTU is written and how high the stakes are in the West Wing episode 500,000 airplanes.

  21. I was 12 when Obama won. He destroyed Clinton in debates which isn't hard and honestly he beat McCain. Didn't like either of his opponents but thought we should give this guy a shot. At 13 i realised that was a mistake and this guy is as bad as Bush.

  22. Every time I hear "the most powerful person in the planet" or "president of the free world" I start laughing at the ingenuity and audacity of Americans…

  23. May not have been our best president but he was no doubt the greatest orator ever…..the comfort he often brought our country thru his words is historical. Trump the worse

  24. A LOT OF backstory you're not getting. One he was an editor-in chief from yale for some university paper, second he did an internship at a big firm that specializes in writing speeches. So no he did not magically land this job.

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