“Donald Trump” (Anthony Atamanuik) and “Bernie Sanders” (James Adomian).
A mock debate with two sharp improvisers seems like a slam-dunk in an election year, but the comedians behind “Trump vs. Bernie” didn’t start out with plans for a tour.
While James Adomian (Comedy Bang! Bang!) was working on his Bernie Sanders impression, he learned that Anthony Atamanuik (Upright Citizens Brigade) was doing a Donald Trump impression. Adomian suggested they debate as a small, one-off show. After a video of their Oct. 12 performance at UCB in New York went viral online, the pair decided it was time to put a tour together.
In advance of their upcoming 12-city run, which includes a Feb. 2 stop at the Majestic Theatre, Adomian and Atamanuik spoke with Isthmus about what it’s like to play these larger-than-life characters.
Getting into character
Anthony Atamanuik: “I was saying stuff as Trump that seemed utterly ridiculous. A month later, Trump is saying the same stuff, almost verbatim, in his speeches. For me, the key is taking Trump’s speeches and revealing how much of it is just old authoritarian politics.”
James Adomian: “I’ve respected Bernie for years, but I never thought he would be famous enough to do an impression of. I did George W. Bush for years, who I hated. It feels nice to make fun of a guy I support. As a comedian, I get to say some things I think he’d like to be able to say.”
Taking the show on the road
Atamanuik: “There’s not a lot of mainstream comedy on TV that wants to talk about this election with real bite, but there are people who are looking for that. That’s why we thought we could pull it off as a tour.”
Adomian: “We’re going to get more Bernie supporters; that’s just who comes to comedy shows. So we play it like a wrestling match. Tony is playing a wrestling villain — the heel — and I’m the good guy — the face.”
How their characters would pitch the show
Atamanuik: “This show is going to be huge. It’s already been huge in New York, which is an important city. It’s going to be huge even though the guy playing me is an idiot. He’s a loser masquerading as a winner. But a loser pretending to be me is still better than anything else out there.”
Adomian: “If you are in the top 40% of the bottom 80% of millennials, this is the show that will define your future; 10% are going to take 90% of the pie if you sit this show out. Don’t listen to the billionaire class; they do not want you to come to this show.”