In his first appearance on "The Daily Show" as commander in chief, President Obama defended his administration's agenda when questioned pointedly about the platform of change and hope he ran on so successfully in 2008.
"When I say that when we promised during the campaign, change you can believe in, it wasn't change you can believe in in 18 months," the president said. "It was change you can believe in, but you have to work for it.
"My attitude is [that] if we're making progress step by step, inch by inch, day by day, that we are being true to the spirit of that campaign," Obama added. "What I would say is, 'Yes, we can,' but it is not going to happen overnight."
The audience and host Jon Stewart erupted into laughter as the president added "but" after the "Yes, we can" campaign slogan that became a defining aspect of his presidential campaign.
This is the first time in the show's 16-year history that a sitting U.S. president has appeared on it. The unedited interview will run in its entirety tonight at 11 p.m. EST, another first of the show.
Obama, appearing before a crowd of 550, received a standing ovation upon arrival.
"It was a wonderful welcome," the president joked. "It doesn't happen, for example, when I go to the Republican caucus meeting."
Obama cracked few jokes during the rest of the show.
In a nearly 30-minute-long interview taped in Washington D.C., where the Comedy Central show is being filmed this week, a relatively serious Obama instead defended the health care and financial reform bills as Stewart pressed him about criticisms that the administration may not be keeping up with the promises made in 2008.
"You ran on a very high rhetoric of hope and change. And the Democrats this year seem to be running on, 'Please baby, one more chance,'" Stewart quipped. "How do we go in two years from hope and change to this?"
"Folks are going to be frustrated and it's going to reflect itself in the political environment," the president said.
"The fact is that there are a bunch of folks who, during the course of this year, took really tough votes that they knew were bad politics because they thought they were the right things to do," he said, referring to lawmakers like Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., and Rep. Betsey Markey, D-Colo., who hail from conservative districts yet voted for health care reform bills.
"They knew it was going to be a tough battle, that these are generally pretty conservative districts, yet they still went ahead and did what they thought was right," Obama said. "My hope is that those people are rewarded for taking those tough votes and if they are, then Democrats will be fine on Election Day."
Obama encouraged Americans to vote and joked that Stewart should have held his "Rally to Restore Sanity" two years ago. The rally, a joint production between Stewart and Stephen Colbert, will be held this Saturday and is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people to Washington.
The president spoke out in support of the rally last month, saying it's for people who expect common sense and courtesy in their daily interactions. He said having those voices be heard is "really important."
The White House said the president's interview was booked before the rally was announced earlier this month.