‘The President Show’ taped its first episode today, and Yours Truly happened to be in the front row.
After spending the better part of a year and a half portraying Donald Trump at Upright Citizens Brigade and comedy venues nationwide, Comedy Central tapped Anthony Atamanuik and his creative team to host a late night talk show… as President Donald Trump.
The President Show is like any talk show. Except it takes place in the Oval Office (or Mar-A-Lago, if there’s a guest). Trump’s sidekick is, of course, his veep. The decidedly un-colorful yet somehow lovable Mike Pence (portrayed by none other than Peter Grosz).
The show is framed as President Trump’s opportunity to get around “the lying media” and address his people directly. “Just like FDR’s Fireside Chats,” he says, “Franklin Eleanor Roosevelt. Whose legs were robbed by Marco Polio!” Trump goes to not-so-great lengths to make Pence his own personal Ed McMahon. And Pence sheepishly smiles and tries to meet the challenge by doing things like donning an eye patch to play characters (like “Donald Pence”). “He’s America’s answer to white rice with no salt,” Trump says of Pence.
Much like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and other political satire talk shows, The President Show has segments featuring recent headlines about the President-Elect. The best part is that we get to watch Donald Trump react to this news. Atamanuik is easily the best Trump impressionist on television, but he’d probably tell you (as Donald Trump) that he’s “the best in the world.”
One of my favorite parts of the show was a field piece titled “Lap of Luxury,”. Originally it was meant to showcase the family’s lavish residence in Trump Tower. The segment is quickly renamed to “Trump’s New York” after our bumbling host realized he’s either locked himself out of his apartment, or Melania has locked him out. It remains unclear. So we follow Trump around New York City, greeting his citizens, and eventually revealing a very dark and regressed side of himself by the end of the video. I don’t want to give it away, just watch the episode. It involves a truck. As Trump calls it, “a big truck, a tremendous truck, honk honk goes the truck.”
The first guest of The President Show was appropriately Keith Olbermann, famous for classifying Trump a psychopath on his GQ show, The Resistance. “He can’t stand me,” Trump (Atamanuik) boasted before the interview. Amid a lush faux Floridian set, Trump “dominated” Olbermann over fake tiki cocktails while asking him questions like, “Are you resisting me? Isn’t it easier to give in? That’s what I say to every woman I meet!”
Olbermann did his best to confront Atamanuik’s Trump as he would the actual president, but both gentlemen had a hard time not breaking a grin. At one point, they both ask poignant questions about Trump’s involvement with Russia, and the landscape of “horse race politics” and policy-making in general. Olbermann remarks a very astute observation by Trump, and Trump comes back with, “What happened? I blanked out.”
During commercial breaks, it was very fun and satisfying to see Atamanuik, Grosz, and their very sweet stage manager dancing around the stage and genuinely enjoying themselves. Atamanuik is a veteran of the New York comedy scene. He taught and performed at UCB for over ten years. And remained behind the scenes most of that time, writing for television and sometimes co-starring on shows like 30 Rock and Broad City. Similarly, Grosz is known for his appearances on NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” UCB’s Assscat 3000 and Sonic commercials. In addition to a smattering of television roles. The President Show marks Atamanuik’s first major TV gig, and let’s hope it’s not his last. To this show, I say: “Four more years! Four more years!”