As the presidential election draws near, the campaigns are intensifying. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some classic comic relief — no matter one’s political stance. We sat down with comedians James Adomian and Anthony Atamanuik, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump impersonators, respectively, to talk about their upcoming mock debate — and Pluto.
The Badger Herald: How did you two meet?
James Adomian: Tony [Anthony Atamanuik] and I met through UCB in New York during the Del Close Marathon, which happens every summer. The first show we ever did was probably the Match Theme 76, which is a crazy, dark show that happens at 2 in the morning. You always play a character from the ’70s in that show — I think he [Atamanuik] was Charles Manson the first time I saw him.
BH: How did you guys decide to do this show?
JA: I have been doing Bernie Sanders for about nine months now, or whenever he decided to run. I’ve always known who Sanders was because he was the only guy not afraid to vote against a horrible bill. I always thought he was kind of funny — his voice and mannerisms, for example. He was in the category of “no one else knows who he is,” so I couldn’t do an impression. But when he announced he was running for president, I started doing it at live shows and during podcasts. Now, Tony and I are doing this together from knowing each other for a while. I thought it was such a great contrast to do Bernie versus Donald Trump — such an ideological contrast, it was almost irresistible.
BH: Are you involved in or passionate about politics?
JA: I was for a while, but I had to step back from it. I felt like the bad guys were always winning. And then, for example, when Russ Feingold was voted out last time, I was very sad about that. The last time I was in Madison, he had just been voted out and now I’m coming back again. And he’s about to get voted back in.
BH: Who do you support in the election?
JA: I am a big supporter of Bernie Sanders, and you can see that in my impression of him. It’s a very flattering impression, and I think we have amplified his views on the billionaire class, income equality and the rigged election system. I make fun of him mostly for his appearance. I take what he says and bend it through a comedic prism and refocus it. But yes, I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter — big time.
Anthony Atamanuik: I support the Democrat, whoever that may be. I would say that Sanders will be a true shift, culturally. I think it would be an amazing turn, so that’s who I would say I support. My only concern is not allowing Trump to win the White House, but I think that’s a DNC scare tactic and for the Clinton campaign to say Bernie isn’t electable — and I don’t think that’s true.
JA: I think Bernie is very electable, he just won’t win many billionaire votes.
BH: Are you guys looking for a big college appeal?
JA: Yeah, that’s what we’re doing in Madison.
AA: We want the college crowd.
BH: Will the show change as the election progresses and candidates say and do different things in the election?
JA: Oh absolutely. We’ve already done that, actually. We’ve only done the show twice at this point, but it was such a success. It’s changed a lot because everything in the news reflects what goes on in the show. We have a moderator and we have some suggestions for questions and topics, but it will be open for improvisation.
AA to JA: Are you still on your way to Malibu, or are you home?
JA: I’m home now, I’m just here talking on the phone, but I think I need to crash for a bit. Is it okay if we meet after that?
AA: Does 6:30 [p.m.] work?
JA: I love arranging our plans during this interview. Hey Tony, pick up some eggs and orange juice on the way over.
AA: Yeah, and I’ll make sure to get that lean bacon you like. What were we talking about again?
BH: Are there political messages in the show you are trying to get across?
JA: Basically, we’re taking a circus and we’re boiling it down and changing the recipe to make it a slightly more fun circus. I think we’re presenting a bizarre version of what’s already a bizarre world we live in. The way we’re doing this tour is in a lot of primary states. We’re performing in two cities in New Hampshire the night before the vote — it’s going to be right in the middle of the eye of the hurricane. It’s so exciting to be a part of that. It’s like we’re the fucking clowns on the sideline of a brutal gladiatorial fight.
AA: We’re like the jesters in the castle who get to speak a bit. Also, the interesting thing is we’re doing it like the candidates — working two cities as a minimum before the primary, so it actually mirrors the politics of it all. I would say the difference, and we have the same goal, is to get people to know who Bernie Sanders is and to see what a benefit he would be. And my goal doing Trump — obviously he’s perceived as a baffoon and I don’t think it’s hard to change any right-wing person’s mind — is to point out to people who agree with me or are dismissive of him as a candidate, that this guy is a true disaster, and he has a real chance of becoming president. If I can put that into people’s minds and be more active, I hope press catches on too. They need a little spanking about the elevation of Trump. They stand back as a little side show, but they have created it partially.
AA to JA: We should do something where you talk about Sun Tzu and all that shit.
JA: You talk about “The Art of War,” and I can talk about the art of cooking. You know what Bernie’s response would be to “The Art of War?” The Ram Dass book, “Be Here Now” [a book about spiritual practices].
AA: I think I should talk about “The Art of War,” but then it turns out I’m talking about the Nicolas Cage movie. I can talk all about it then say [Trump voice], “Nicolas Cage was great in it. He’s a very good friend of mine.”
JA: [Bernie voice] I prefer the more peaceful angle, from Ram Dass’ “Be Here Now.” That’s the ancient literature I’m looking at.
AA: [Trump voice] Bernie, you’ve got to see “Next,” it’s a great movie. You can see it in the future. Nick Cage blows up Jessica Biel. It’s great, they blow her up in a wheelchair.
JA: [Bernie voice] The only kind of science fiction I’m interested in is “Logan’s Run,” where the guy escapes from the thing, but instead of running away from it, he goes back as a very old man and runs for president with the support of all the young people.
AA: [Trump voice] I don’t watch much science fiction, but what I do love is “Pluto Nash.” I find it has an incredibly good plot.
JA: [Bernie voice] We can agree on that, because I think the small planets like Pluto deserve a a fair shot at being a full planet.
AA: [Trump voice] I think Pluto can be blown up, but I still agree.
BH: Who does a better Sanders impersonation, you or Larry David?
JA: Larry David is a very funny guy, and he’s doing Larry David. I have a very different take on Bernie Sanders.