Why you should watch Anthony Atamanuik on "The President Show" tonight

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Contrary to what Morrissey would have you think, we love it when our friends become successful. It's especially sweet when that friend has been doing fantastic work in relative obscurity for a decade and a half. That's why I've long been so vocal on social media in support of Anthony Atamanuik.

Anthony is a brilliant comedian and improviser—fearsomely disciplined yet fearless in accessing the most twisted recesses of his id. Before I met him, I got to know his work through a series of bizarre short films he made, like this one:

As a performer and teacher at the Upright Citizens Brigade, Anthony was tapped to play one of the writers on 30 Rock. As essentially a glorified extra, he appeared on the show for years but did not get so much as one line until the series finale:

When Laura and I started to get to know Anthony, we discovered a warm, voluable, generous person who could hold a room in thrall just being himself and talking about obsessions like Star Trek and numbers stations. I've met few people with such easy command of so many obscure and complex topics. And Anthony figures large in one of the favorite non-memories of my life, which took place in Amsterdam and which I only recall up to a certain point. (You can ask me about it offline.)

After 30 Rock, Anthony landed occasional roles on shows like Broad City, but it wasn't until he stumbled into his Trump persona in 2015 that his career really started accelerating. His solo show "Trump Dump" posited a future few people took seriously, portraying Donald Trump's first, terrifying press conference. He toured the country with James Adomian in the "Trump vs. Bernie" debates. Regular in-character appearances on The View and @midnight soon followed.

Bill and Laura with Anthony Atamanuik after 'Trump Dump: The Last Rally,' NYU Skirball Center, 3 November 2016
Laura and I attended his "Trump Dump: The Last Rally" at NYU on November 3, 2016, just five days before the election. As was typical of these shows, it was much more than just an impersonation. Over the course of the year, Anthony had become a scrupulous student of Trump. His incisive observations did more than make fun of the man. It called every person in that audience to task for their complicity in Trump's rise.

I think a lot of people left that performance uncomfortable and offended. (Anthony himself seemed exhausted afterward, and talked openly about hanging up the Trump persona after the election.) But the warning Anthony had been sounding all along became even more chilling when the election unfolded the way we all now know it did.

That's why you should watch The President Show tonight when it debuts after The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Not because Anthony's Trump impression is so much better than Alec Baldwin's or anyone else's (although it is). It's because Anthony has put in the hours and days and months to get inside the man's skin and understand what drives him, and because he's not afraid to call out the establishment, the media, and you and me for not stopping this monster's ascent to power.

Laura and I saw a test taping of The President Show last week. It's all you might expect and more—smart, surprising, audacious, and above all hilarious. Tune in tonight and help make it the bigliest and best debut it can possibly be.

It's hard hard hard for me to pick my favorite clips of Anthony's work as Trump. So here, have a shit-ton of them instead:

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on April 27, 2017 2:43 PM.

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