The number of Donald Trump impersonators hasn’t quite reached the level of Elvis impersonators (yet), but much like the President’s Executive Orders, there seems to be a new one popping up every day. Trump would call it job creation.
Every Commander in Chief needs his—and someday her—Lampooner in Chief. A comic counterpart that Americans can use to keep their country’s leader honest and keep our nation’s sense of humor—our greatest natural resource—in tact. Richard Nixon had Dan Aykroyd. George Bush Sr. had Dana Carvey. Gerald Ford had Chevy Chase. Bill Clinton had both Phil Hartman and Darrell Hammond. And George W. Bush had Will Ferrell, whom we would like to see play all of them.
Leading the charge in the Trump takeoff, of course, is Alec Baldwin, who has carved out his rightful place behind the faux presidential podium with his brooding face and hulking figure. If it weren’t for his physicality—including a perfectly coifed wig and eyebrows that would make an aesthetician cringe—you might just think you’re watching Alec Baldwin with a stiff neck and a cold. While Saturday Night Live viewers have lapped up Baldwin’s mostly buffoonish take on 45, Baldwin himself admits to being a reluctant fake (news) President and has more than hinted that it’s a role he doesn’t want to play for the next 1,365 days (yes, we’re counting).
Someone who is far more committed to the role—perhaps even more than Trump is to his own—is Anthony Atamanuik, who kicks off “The President Show” on Comedy Central this week. Atamanuik’s approach to Trump is more busy than brooding. He nails the Trump hand gestures that Baldwin mostly foregoes and weaves in a wider repertoire of phrases and vocal variances. He is Trump the Campaigner and Trump the Dealmaker, talking fast and overflowing with confidence. Much like Trump supporters, Comedy Central is betting on an unknown in both its casting and its content, though Atamanuik could actually win the popular vote.
The best of the online Trump impersonations is being done by Jeremy Saville, a comedian and independent filmmaker who, like Atamanuik, also has a background in improv (starting at Chicago’s Second City), and it shows. While physically Saville is too sleight of build and large of hand to be a ringer for The Donald, Saville’s Trump stands apart for a few reasons. For one, he’s prolific. His TrumpaVision channel—a domain name that, somehow, the billionaire President failed to snag—publishes daily to social media channels and YouTube.
This is even more remarkable considering that Saville shoots from his home studio in Santa Monica. “Unlike the features I shoot, it’s a pretty turnkey operation,” he says. “I pop up the green screen and set up the Red every Sunday, and we shoot for the week.” Saville’s wife handles hair and makeup—a custom-made Trump wig from former SNL wigmaker Amanda Miller, a wash of “Cheeto” orange makeup on the face and white circles around the eyes complete the look.
The shoots themselves are pure improv. Saville comes up with a punch list of topics based on trending news stories and scrawls them on a Post-It before shooting. Simple prompts like “space mission” turn into a rambling and riveting two-minute account of a new “Mars-a-Lago” resort that will serve as a refugee colony and place of employment for the illegal immigrants Trump wants to oust. (Mars-a-Lago…you wonder why someone hadn’t come up with that already!)
“When I launched the channel Inauguration Day, I knew I wanted to be true to the character, and as we’ve seen, Trump is all improv,” Saville says. “Just like him, I never know what’s going to come out of my mouth, and that’s a huge part of the fun of doing it.”
Saville also set out to ensure that his version of Trump—unlike the real one—has bipartisan appeal. “I get comments from Republicans telling me that they love the work, and are sharing it with all of their conservative friends who love it, too,” he says. “That’s great to hear since my goal with this project is to Make America Laugh Again.”
His wacky and wandering take on our golden President has elicited fierce passion among his burgeoning fan base, who say they “live for the videos,” and, much like Jon Stewart escorted the nation through a George W. Bush presidency on “The Daily Show,” TrumpaVision is their fix for all things Donald.
Some are getting even more out of it. One fan wrote a message to Saville saying that as a “woman of color” she had experienced enormous worry and fear since Trump’s election. “But every time I see one of your posts,” she wrote, “I remember to just try and laugh at him sometimes.”
To see Jeremy Saville in action as President Trump, go to TrumpaVision.com.