For those out there who think that Saturday Night Live’s take on Donald Trump is ploddingly safe and threadbare (like The A.V. Club TV host John Teti’s mom, to name but one), The President Show’s take on the person currently occupying the White House is a bracingly harsh and insightful alternative. Anthony Atamanuik’s Trump, unlike Alec Baldwin’s more harmlessly buffoonish version, is an impression that touches on the truly dangerous lunacy that seemingly lies behind the actual Trump’s vindictive outbursts and childish Twitter beefs. Weekly, Atamanuik spins his committed performance as the Republican leader into a queasily funny showcase for the actor’s uncanny approximation of a ranting, emotionally stunted man-baby. (Who also—god help us—happens to be running things.)
On Thursday’s show, that undiagnosed mess met a real doctor, as Atamanuik’s Trump is tricked by his blandly wily sidekick Mike Pence (peerless straight man Peter Grosz) into sitting down with Dr. John Gartner, practicing therapist and head of the organization Duty To Warn. The group is made up of mental health professionals who’ve banded together to warn Americans that, in their collective opinion, Trump is mentally unfit to hold the office of president and therefore should be removed from office under the terms of the 25th Amendment. Needless to say, Atamanuik’s Trump isn’t too happy to find himself in the doctor’s office, although once Pence assures him the whole purpose of therapy is to talk about himself non-stop, he warms up, spilling some speculatively disturbing interior monologues that go a long way toward explaining why he is, in Gartner’s words, a dangerous narcissist with no impulse control, paranoiac tendencies, and an unusual need for approval.
Atamanuik’s Trump proves all Gartner’s points by missing them entirely, instead taking away the happy news that, since he’s crazy, he’s not responsible for anything he does. (Cue sock to Pence’s breadbasket, and then a daylight shouting, mugging, and finally shooting spree that explains the joke that Grosz’s Pence has had his arm in a sling all episode.) Sure, diagnosing a person you’ve never met based only on his copiously documented, routinely mendacious public statements and daily use of social media seemingly destined to plunge the Earth into a fiery nuclear abyss is controversial. But Atamanuik continues to make a convincing comedic diagnosis that the United States is being led by an erratic, hair-trigger bully with deep-seated issues, so bringing in professional assistance to prop up his case is only the sane thing to do.