THE NEW TRUMP TAKE
Anthony Atamanuik will impersonate Trump’s “soul” on “The President Show.”
Anthony Atamanuik brings his impression to late night.
Many Americans would sleep a lot easier if Donald Trump were host of a late night show instead of leader of the free world. The former reality star could do considerably less damage if he had stuck to entertainment and stayed out of politics. But what if Trump the president had his own late night show?
That’s the premise of “The President Show,”a new weekly late night show on Comedy Central that puts our commander-in-chief — as played by Trump impersonator Anthony Atamanuik — behind the desk.
The 42-year-old comedian, a veteran improviser at New York Upright Citizen’s Brigade (UCB) who’s also known for his work on “Broad City” and “30 Rock,” debuted his take on the Donald in a one-man show at UCB called the Trump Dump, back in June 2015, shortly after Trump had announced his candidacy. In 2016, Atamanuik followed it with “Trump vs. Bernie,” a sketch series of mock debates alongside Bernie impersonator and comedian James Adomian, which the two took on a 40-city tour and released as a comedy special “Trump vs. Bernie: Live from Brooklyn,” ranked no. 1 on iTunes. That garnered attention from fans like Judd Apatow and Howard Stern, cementing Atamanuik’s reputation as the guy whose Trump impression rivaled Alec Baldwin’s.
In January, Atamanuik pitched the show to Comedy Central; by February, it was greenlit. Adam Pally (“The Mindy Project”) executive produces; writers include Emmy Blotnik (“@Midnight with Chris Hardwick”) Neil Casey (“Inside Amy Schumer”) and John Gemberling (Bevers on “Broad City”!).
Ahead of tonight’s premiere, we visited the “President Show” set in Midtown, where Atamanuik (in character as Trump) held a (mock) press conference, followed by a (real) Q&A with Atamanuik (as himself). Here’s what we heard from both men about what to expect from the show.
How his Trump take is different
“I like to say that I do an impression of his psyche, an impression of his soul. [That’s] the thing that’s missing in how people portray Trump,” said Atamanuik. “It’s easy to do the, ‘I’m Donald Trump, this is how I do my body,’ that’s just conditioning and training, but in watching him, I found all these psychological refrains that were really fascinating.”
He calls out Trump as a “weird, lecherous guy”
“I don’t think any one thing can take a president out of office. My show is not going to get him impeached — that’s a left fantasy anyway, because the process would take so long,” he explained. “I think we can contribute to re-examining his identity and forcing cable news media to stop doing this pretend game where just because he’s the president, we pretend he’s not a weird, lecherous guy.”
His response to claims that he’s normalizing Trump
“If anything, I’ve tried to show how abnormal he is. Was Charlie Chaplin normalizing Adolf Hitler when he played him in ‘The Great Dictator’? Comedy and satire are the lifeblood of the most tragic periods in human history. I have survivors in my family, and they laughed their way through the camps because that’s how you survive.”
“Trump” on his dream guests
“All the stars of ‘Bring it On.’ All the girls, so wonderful. I’d wander into the dressing room before the show, like I used to with so many pageants with underage teenagers. Did you know I really did that? Isn’t that wonderful?”
How he’d choose between being president or hosting late night
“I would definitely choose for me to be on the show and for me not to be president.”
Anthony Atamanuik plays Trump as the late night host of “The President Show,” premiering Thursday at 11:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.