There’s a new candidate for the king of late night. His name is Donald Trump.
Well, not really. “The President Show” follows in the Comedy Central tradition of fake talk shows, one it basically created with “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.” The new iteration is hosted by our very own United States president in the form of Trump impersonator Anthony Atamanuik.
Airing for a half-hour on Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., “The President Show” imagines a scenario in which Trump bypasses the media, with whom he has had a contentious relationship (to say the least), and does his own late-night show from the White House Oval Office. Like other late-night shows, this one includes desk segments, field pieces, and guest interviews, as well as its own Vice President Mike Pence (played by Peter Grosz, who’s also an executive producer) as Trump’s sidekick.
The show’s premiere episode on April 27 did gangbusters for Comedy Central. It was watched by about 1 million viewers in its first three days after its debut, the network’s highest series premiere debut viewership since its acclaimed comedy “Broad City.”
The show’s high ratings are well-deserved. It’s a fresh take on both late-night shows and Trump satire, which is all the more remarkable given how familiar both of those formats have become. It’s honestly one of the most exciting late-night shows in a long time.
Here’s why you should watch “The President Show”:
Viewers may have first heard of Atamanuik from his very public feud with Baldwin while both were lobbying to play the president at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
Baldwin is certainly good at impersonating Trump, but Atamanuik takes the impersonation to places the star regularly popping up on 'Saturday Night Live' doesn't.
The difference is mostly in tone and physicality -- and we're not talking about sporting a red tie, orange tan, and a gravity-defying blond wig. Baldwin's impression centres on the strained lip pout and an uptight feeling in Trump's body. It was timely for him when he began the impression in 2016, as it reflected a very anxious, sometimes angry country.
Atamanuik offers a much more relaxed physical presence in his impression. That probably comes from his improv background and his different read on Trump's personality.
'He fancies himself as a Rat Packer, but he's really this insecure, almost dowager living in a mansion,' Atamanuik told reporters last week of the real Trump. 'He has this weird feminine quality to him that he tries to overcome with this sort of swagger-y masculinity.'
And while Baldwin has starred in short sketches on 'SNL' over the past several months, Atamanuik has been able to hone and relax into his Trump creation during a 41-city tour for the comedy show 'Trump vs. Bernie.'
All of the above makes for a more relaxed viewing experience compared to Baldwin's tightly wound take.
Peter Grosz as Vice President Mike Pence is always either sitting on the couch or lurking nearby Atamanuik's Trump.
Also an executive producer on 'The President Show,' Grosz plays Pence as quietly subservient and absolutely afraid of Trump. But there's also a great play on Pence's Christian right leanings, with strict avoidance of temptation or a penchant for acting out strange impulses.
Grosz walks the line of stealing scenes from Atamanuik and providing great interest to viewers who notice the details.
Comedy Central's Oval Office looks like the real thing, but it's got some hidden tricks.
First off, it was designed by Ellen Waggett, a former set designer for Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon, as well as the designer hired by Michelle Obama for the annual Broadway at the White House event.
Her take on the Oval Office reflects her own personal visits to the actual one, but she throws in some interesting comedic details. For example, there's a row of Russian nesting dolls on the bookshelf and touches of gold, something she gleaned while scoping out the over-the-top interior design of the D.C. Trump hotel during a visit.
There's also a trap door in the front panel of Trump's desk and one of the bookcases opens up to a yet-to-be-seen recurring sketch on the show that allows Trump to escape to magical worlds.
Interview subjects will need to play along with the show's gag, and that's an exciting X factor.
There's bound to be some awkwardness, as with inaugural guest Keith Olbermann, and there will certainly be guests who step up to the show's challenge. The fun is in finding out which way guests land, and we get to see just how Atamanuik's improv background serves him in these situations.
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