On Sunday afternoon, Barack Obama became the first US President to visit Cuba in 90 years – a historic occasion designed to further establish his Administration’s warming diplomatic relationship with the nation.
And, as if to set the tone for his weekend-long visit, on Friday Obama appeared in a sketch with Cuban comedian Luis Silva, who plays a super popular character known as Pánfilo.
Pánfilo is known for an ongoing routine that depicts his frequent (and unsuccessful) attempts to reach President Obama on the phone. Only this time, things went a little differently for him. Watch Pánfilo finally get to chop it up with the Prez in the sketch above – a comedy bit which would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.
For live updates of the Obamas’ visit in Cuba, check out the NY Times‘ interactive timeline here.
Update 4/23/2016 at 5:25 p.m.
It seems President Obama’s engagement with Cuban television didn’t stop at a mere phone-in with Pánfilo. A hot-off-the-presses video from cubadebate.cu reveals that Obama actually took a few minutes to stop by the studio and pay Pánfilo an in-person visit during his historical two-day romp through the Pearl of the Antilles.
The setup finds Pánfilo and the gang playing a boring, three person game of dominos and lamenting that with just one more player things would pick up. Enter President Obama. From there on the dominos sort of fall by the wayside as Obama ticks off some talking points about how much fun he’s had in Cuba, the hospitality of the Cuban people, the food, etc. The five minute sketch is full of awkward timing and bad jokes, but no one said that state-run Cuban television was a breeding ground for avant-guard comedy.
Nevertheless, Obama does seem to loosen up at times and genuinely cracks up at actor Luis Silva’s interpretation of the beloved Pánfilo character. There’s certainly no doubting Silva’s comic abilities, but the folks behind the show might be well-advised to bring some new writers on board. Be that as it may, all involved with the episode can sleep tight knowing that they played a crucial role in the future of U.S.-Cuba relations.