Alec Baldwin was a high-profile choice as the resident “Saturday Night Live” Trump impersonator, but after he debuted last year with much fanfare, some in the comedy world wondered: What about Anthony Atamanuik?
The Upright Citizens Brigade performer and instructor, who took his impersonation on the road for the “Trump vs. Bernie” mock debates last year, has earned widespread acclaim and developed quite the following for his take on the current president. Now, Comedy Central is giving Atamanuik a full half-hour every week to play Trump in a satirical topical news program.
“The President Show” will premiere April 27 and feature desk segments, field pieces and guest interviews. “In the world of ‘The President Show,’ Trump is bypassing the crooked media by hosting a late-night show direct from the Oval Office,” Comedy Central announced Monday in a release. “No unfair questions from reporters, no awkward photo ops with German ladies, and no bedtimes.”
The series will also feature veteran “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and “The Colbert Report” writer Peter Grosz, who will play Vice President Pence.
“The President Show” also appears to dip back into “Colbert Report” territory by centering an entire show on lampooning a political character. For Colbert, it was a conservative pundit. With this new show, it’s the president himself.
This isn’t the first time Comedy Central has based an entire series on a presidential impersonation, either. Recall the ill-fated 2001 show “That’s My Bush!” from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, which was a parody of the classic sitcom format. It lasted eight episodes.
“The President Show” adds to the growing late-night political comedy boom. While presidential election season usually boosts ratings for shows like SNL, the unprecedented nature of this presidency and the polarized state of the nation have fueled the appetite for political humor long after November.
Stephen Colbert’s more politically charged show beat Jimmy Fallon in first quarter ratings for the first time, giving CBS an edge it hasn’t had in seven years. And NBC will air half-hour SNL “Weekend Update” programs in August.
“‘SNL’ is having its best season in a quarter of a century — how many shows can say that?! — so we didn’t want them to take the summer off,” Robert Greenblatt, NBC Entertainment chairman, said in a release last month.
Baldwin has said he doesn’t plan to play Trump for much longer, but it’s unclear when he’ll actually stop and who will take his place on SNL. Some have speculated that he had ripped off aspects of the impersonation — especially the pronunciation of “China” — from Atamanuik, including James Adomian, who played Bernie Sanders during the “Trump vs. Bernie” debates.
After Trump announced he wouldn’t attend the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, Atamanuik offered to show up in his place — and plenty of comedians urged the association to take him up on the offer.
— Mike Birbiglia (@birbigs) February 26, 2017
— Andy Daly (@TVsAndyDaly) February 26, 2017
Baldwin had been cryptic as to whether he’d take the gig, if it was offered. He told Jimmy Kimmel last month that some are “lobbying to play Trump at the White House correspondents dinner,” referring to “a couple guys on the Internet who are like, ‘No, please. I’m the only man who should play Trump.’ There’s a lot of Trump competition; I got sucked into this.” Baldwin didn’t mention Atamanuik by name, but his on-air comment started a bit of a Twitter spat with Atamanuik and Adomian.
It looks like Atamanuik will be busy for the foreseeable future anyway. “The President Show” will follow “The Daily Show” once a week, taking the spot of Larry Wilmore’s canceled “The Nightly Show.” This schedule addition also means the Chris Hardwick-hosted “@midnight” will go back to actually airing at midnight.