Thursday 26 April 2018

Move over Alec Baldwin, there's an even better Trump impersonator in town

Reviews of The President Show (Comedy Central, Saturday), and The Keith and Paddy Picture Show (UTV Saturday)

The President Show
The President Show

Pat Stacey

Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump impression on Saturday Night Live may be the one that got all the plaudits – at least until Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer started to steal his thunder – but there’s a new contender in town in the shape of Anthony Atamanuik.

Okay, not totally new. Atamanuik has been taking off Trump for a long time, even auditioning for the SNL spot that went to Baldwin. He’d be a lot less well known in these parts, though, and his series The President Show on Comedy Central has been up and running for just three weeks.

Baldwin has the edge in terms of more sophisticated scripts – Atamanuik’s brand of humour is more blunt instrument than surgical scalpel – but where the latter wins, tiny hands down, is in the quality of his mimicry. It’s brilliant.

He’s captured “the 45th and final president of the United States”, as he’s introduced at the start of this spoof late-night talk show, to a tee: the hand gestures and peculiar handshake, the bizarrely drawn-out vowel sounds, and those agonised facial contortions, which suggest Trump is straining hard to trigger a bowel movement.

Close your eyes and it’s like listening to the real thing, especially when he comes out with something like this, to guest Linda Sarsour, co-founder of the women’s march on Washington: “You talk about something called intersectionality. Now, do we have to build a new bathroom for that?”

The fact that Comedy Central in the UK is a week behind with episodes tends to blunt the topicality a little, so a routine on Saturday’s show about the repeal of Obamacare already felt dated.

Saturday Night Live: Sean Spicer and Donald Trump kiss as Melissa McCarthy and Alec Baldwin return 

The President Show is at its best when it’s at its silliest. Trump’s baldness medication caused him to hallucinate that the paintings in the Oval Office had come to life, leading to a very funny exchange with Andrew Jackson, who he infamously declared was “very angry” over the American Civil War (Jackson died 20 years before the conflict began).

“I didn’t fight in the Civil War,” Jackson reminds him. “I fought in the war of 1812.”

“Ah, 18 to 12,” says Trump, wistfully, “the forbidden age”.

Next Saturday’s episode, which I’ve already seen online, is even tighter and funnier. A reporter asks him when he decided to fire James Comey. “I dunno, during Judge Judy.”

He visits an elementary school and ends up showing the kids how to build a hotel with coloured blocks (“the yellow ones are the illegals I hire”).

He throws a tantrum when it’s time to leave, forcing Mike Pence (Peter Grosz) to drag him out by the legs. It’s juvenile and it’s ridiculous, and it made me laugh like a drain.

The President Show doesn’t always hit the mark. Very few comedies do. The Keith and Paddy Picture Show, on the other hand, doesn’t even know there are such things as marks.

Saying it’s bloody awful doesn’t begin to describe its badness, which I’m beginning to think is probably beyond description anyway.

You don’t expect much from Keith Lemon, the comedy alter ego of Leigh Francis, or Paddy McGuinness, host of tacky dating show Take Me Out, at the best of times.

Still, it’s hard to imagine how anyone with a career in television, even a pair as crushingly charmless as these two, could turn out something as lazy and dire as this grisly mix of mockumentary and lame parody.

The two are obviously friends, that much is clear from the nauseating self-indulgence on show. The idea is they recreate their favourite films. Last week it was Dirty Dancing; this week Ghostbusters.

That’s exactly what they do. They re-stage scenes using the original dialogue, because nobody has bothered to write any jokes.

Presumably, we’re supposed to find bad wigs, cheap props, dodgy American accents and the presence of mediocrities like Robbie Williams hilarious in themselves.

It’s eerily, depressingly, soul-destroyingly unfunny.


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