Unlike some fictional Donald Trumps you could mention, comedian Anthony Atamanuik has made channeling the Donald a full time job, parlaying his long-running comic debate tour alongside James Adomian’s Bernie Sanders into a gig hosting Comedy Central’s The President Show. A seemingly dangerous gig, as donning the tangerine paint and cotton candy wig seems to imbue Trump impersonators with some of the actual Trump’s petulance. Regardless, Atamanuik’s take on Trump is appropriately self-aggrandizing and buffoonish in sketches and monologues lampooning Trump’s weekly lies, gaffes, and outright villainy. (Here, Atamanuik’s Trump crowed to the press corps about his plan to abandon the Paris climate agreements, citing his loyalty to Trump’s base of those “who forgot to read.”)
But it’s in the comic’s sit-down interviews where improv veteran Atamanuik really shines, as in tonight’s talk with Georgetown sociologist and author Michael Eric Dyson. There to plug his newest book on race relations, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, Dyson found himself attempting to spell out his theories of white privilege, the pernicious racism of liberal whites who consider their own racial attitudes beyond reproach, and his concept of “individual reparations.” All the while, Atamanuik’s Trump peppered him with questions in character, deftly allowing Dyson room to make his points before coming out with Trump-esque questions suggesting the president may not have the greatest handle on the subject at hand. (Hearing Dyson’s description of white privilege as “being born on third and acting like you hit a triple,” Atamaniuk’s Trump nods enthusiastically before exclaiming, “That’s what I did!”)
There’s a touch of that old Colbert Report ironic comedy magic to these interviews, as Atamaniuk’s Trump both is and isn’t in on the joke, depending on the comedic needs of the moment. In the end, as ever, Dyson—greeted with one of Trump’s signature, overcompensating manly handshakes—walked away smiling. At least a fictional Trump (who, in the person of Atamaniuk at least, has not only read an actual book, but admits to crying at the end of Toni Morrison’s novel A Mercy) has five minutes to talk to a black man about race in America.