Should I take insulin pic.twitter.com/ALEYQqzJir
— Sarah Cooper (@sarahcpr) May 27, 2020
.@MonicaHesse takes a look at the women who are skewering Trump: “I’m taking that setting away and putting those words into the mouth of someone who is much more low status and low power,” @sarahcpr tells her. https://t.co/VXp4AQJ7kb
— Elahe Izadi (@ElaheIzadi) May 22, 2020
TikTok takes a ton of abuse (and not without reason), but it can also be a weapon for the relatively powerless — “Women on TikTok have cracked the code on how to satirize Trump”:
Kylie Scott, a social worker turned film student, was dutifully obeying stay-at-home orders in California when she caught a clip of the president riffing on antibiotics and coronavirus. On TikTok, where lip-syncing is a popular pastime, somebody had mimed the president’s monologue as if he were a clueless substitute teacher, forced to lecture on a subject he knew nothing about. But to Scott, the president’s speech seemed like something much more basic: the 3 a.m. ramblings of a drunk girl in a club.
So that’s what she turned it into. Scott threw on a sparkly top, grabbed a bar glass, and spent 30 minutes learning to lip-sync the president’s address — “The germ has gotten so brilliant” — before recording her reinterpretation and throwing it on TikTok, where it promptly gained more than a million views.
If you’ve had an extra hour or 90 to stare at a screen in the past two months, you might have seen one of Scott’s videos. The settings change, from bar crawl to birthday toast to Uber ride, but her character remains the same: Scott is a runny-mascara’d hot mess who is definitely going to borrow your purse and then puke in it. She just happens to be delivering the monologues of the president of the United States. “I’m not splicing anything together,” Scott says. “They’re all full sound bites that he’s said directly.”…
… Comedians have long complained that Trump is difficult to parody: He says things that are weirder than what any writers’ room could come up with, with a delivery that’s practically beyond exaggeration. Lip-sync remixers like Scott have found a way to revive presidential satire by simply keeping the word vomit and changing everything else.
Sarah Cooper is another master of this method. Wearing her own street clothes and in her own Brooklyn apartment, she’s filmed a whole series, including “How to Medical” — using Trump’s comments about injecting disinfectant to kill the virus — and “How to Obamagate.” Already an author and working comedian, her Twitter following has grown from 60,000 to 600,000; when I talked with her on the phone this week, she said she’d been “taking meetings,” one of those Hollywood terms that often means somebody powerful wants to make you into somebody famous…
Cooper’s performance isn’t only about Donald Trump. It’s also about how context and pageantry play a role in how authority is vested. When she points out the president’s preposterous statements, she’s also making the point that certain kinds of people’s preposterous statements are assumed to be smart — a twist on Nixon’s infamous claim, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”
When an aging man in a suit says it from behind a presidential seal, and an entourage of high-powered officials react with stoic deference, that means it is not crazy.
I don’t think it’s coincidence that Cooper and Scott are both women (Cooper doesn’t either: “This doesn’t work as well when men do it,” she says). Some of the sharpest political commentary on TikTok involves women impersonating male politicians — witness Maria DeCotis as New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo — a trend carried over from television. “Saturday Night Live’s” smartest casting decision after the 2016 election wasn’t Baldwin as Trump. It was Melissa McCarthy as former press secretary Sean Spicer, throwing red-faced tantrums and plowing her motorized lectern through the White House pressroom.
The skits reportedly made the president furious, as did the ones featuring Kate McKinnon as then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Trump doesn’t like his people to look weak,” a top donor anonymously told Politico, and the president felt that casting women had done just that.
Of course, that was backward. Melissa McCarthy behaving like Sean Spicer didn’t make Spicer ridiculous. Spicer behaving like Spicer made Spicer ridiculous…
“The more I get into impersonation, the less funny it becomes.” Stripped of the podium, presidential seal, and the people nodding behind him, “you focus more on the words. And focus just on how ridiculous those words are,” @sarahcpr https://t.co/mcYdK85bLg
— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) May 22, 2020