Anthony Atamaniuk Talks Trump & Star Trek At NYCC 2017

anthony_atamaniuk_interview

All men are created equal. Unless, of course, you’re the current President of the United States, without peer (in his own mind). However, there is one man, comedian Anthony Atamaniuk, who puts up a strong argument for contention. Atamaniuk dons the finest spray tan and fake wig to transform himself into the most accurate portrayal of our Commander-in-Chief. Steering clear of the obvious jokes, Atamaniuk's impersonation draws heavily from Trump’s incompetence, which will provide him an endless supply of material for the future.  

But there’s more to Atamaniuk than just a key impression. He’s appeared on 30 Rock, Broad City and graced the stage at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater with the legendary improv team Death By Roo Roo. He is also a huge fan of sci-fi and a comic con aficionado. We spoke with Atamaniuk last week at New York Comic Con about sci-fi, his NYCC experience and his ever-progressing impersonation of our Commander-in-Chief.

Player.One: How are you enjoying NYCC so far?

Anthony Atamaniuk: Oh, I'm having a blast. I'm enjoying it to the extent that I had 20 minutes to go onto the floor so far and actually do what I want to do at Comic Con, which is buy merch and see people, see cosplay people. So I've already purchased [stuff from] three of these great artists... but I still haven't gotten to T-shirts, comics, collectibles, video games.

P1: Are you attending any panels?

AA: I definitely want to see John DiMaggio. I love Bender so much, so I wanna hear him talk aloud. I'm going to go to Mark's thing, Mark Hamill's talk. II want to go to The Orville thing, but I think I'll miss it today ... I hope Gene Haas is here, I love Gene Haas' art. I've been going to cons since like ‘83, I think ‘82, so this is old hat. But it's way bigger now. It used to be like four rooms and you were just buying from the same vendors every time you went.

P1: Is art something you hunt for specifically, or just toys and t-shirts?

AA: I have so many T-shirts already. I have a dresser that's just t-shirts, I have nothing else in it. I would say collectibles like toys and art are primary for cons like this. And pins, I love pins. Used to have these old Doctor Who pins, they were like the Doctor and the TARDIS. I like those really artfully done pins. But yeah, now I have the office at the show, so I’d like to put more art in there. I like posters. I have a Wrath of Khan poster that does not say Star Trek 2, because originally it would just say Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, but then they added the ‘2’ so I have one of the pre-2 posters. So I try to look for finds like that. That's what I'm into. Rarities for sure.

P1: What’s the rarest thing in your house?

AA: I would actually say it's probably that poster. That's a very rare poster. I can't think of anything. Oh, I have a Spock decanter. A Spock brandy decanter from 1977, it was released whenever they were running up to the picture. And you can still smell the brandy in it, and you pull Spock's head off to pour.

P1: Would you say Star Trek is your favorite property?

AA: Space 1999 was the first thing I really understood, science fiction wise.I was probably like five or six when I started listening to Space 1999. My dad was a huge Doctor Who fan, always been a huge Who fan, so I got into Doctor Who when they were rerunning the Baker episodes in the late 70's early 80's. So I would say Doctor Who and Space 1999 is sort of where my entry point was in visual science fiction.

Then Star Wars was actually first. Star Wars is fantasy science fiction, it's not ... it's a big debate but you just cannot say it's not fantasy because it's outside of the full commentary on societal science fiction. It's the extension of our world into a new shoot of what's a possibility in our world. So Star Wars would be the first thing for me where I fully connected with the fantasy and sci-fi elements.

Star Trek I actually didn't roll into. Because I was watching a lot of old TV shows, Twilight Zone, things like that. I rolled into Star Trek when I was probably about 10 or 11. Pretty late in terms of like Trekdom, so I started watching the old series. I saw Star Trek 2  and Star Trek 3 in theaters before I watched the old series and then I watched the old series, obviously fell in love with that. So it's a weird competition. I don't want to pick one because I have rolled through in full Vader outfits and full Luke outfits and also worn the hotel bellman outfit from Star Trek 2 and I've dressed as the Fourth and Fifth Doctors for Halloween.

So it's hard for me to say which one, but I would say, those are my three pillars. I think, especially in science fiction, which is represented in philosophy, things run in threes. So you have your three pillars. You have your Who, which is representative of sort of like absolute abandonment, but with respect for time travel. The fantasy and notioning of really diving into friendship, companionship, solving history, but also Doctor Who introduced worlds you can't even conceive of.

Star Trek gives you this sort of almost stable, governmental perspective. Here's how we could be, here's how The Federation could be, humanity and what it could reach. It's a real metaphor for our times.

And Star Wars was the notion of going so far from something that you're in a completely new and immersive world.

I think you need all three of things to sort of compliment your notions of sci-fi. I'm a huge Futurama fan, too.

P1: Has your Trump impression evolved over the years from a character you did at UCB shows to one that’s on TV?

AA: It has. It’s funny, I looked at some old photos from the original thing we did and I used to wear a dirty surfer’s wig and a blue suit. It looked nothing like Trump. I think it evolved in the mechanics of how I did the make-up and what I had for resources.

I would say it evolved by learning that his core is a lot more about the impression, like he doesn't have a good center of gravity.  Also, he's changed over time. He's changed quite a bit in two years in terms of his tonality, his voice; he's aging into the presidency. I think he's more tired than he imagined. He's a person that doesn't change how he is. So I have been trying to keep up with that. I would say accuracy, and once you get accuracy, then the fantasy of what it could be. ‘If this is true then what else is true?’ which is a principal of ucb improv philosophy.

P1: How do you think President Trump would react if you did your impression for him?

AA: I think he would like deflect it because he probably knows it's accurate.

He hasn't tweeted about our show, which I'm fine with. perfectly fine with. I don't know if he would. I don't know the level of sense of humor he has about himself if he's not in charge of it. That would be my guess. I think he probably delights in other people's pain, which is not the type of humor I like.

P1: Is there anything you’d stay away from in regards to impersonating him?

AA: His son, Barron. Tiffany. People who are not involved, and also his son's 10, ya know? My intention or objective is not to just humiliate or hurt a person. It's to take on the people who have chosen to say, ‘we want to be accountable in public life for what we do.’ So Ivanka is part of that, Melania is part of that, because they've chosen to participate in a public sphere.

I try to stear clear of the obvious jokes like orange man or pumpkin and things like that ... I would rather litigate him in terms of his behavior or ignorance in lack of skill.

P1: Do you feel your character has allowed you to reach Trump voters and change their opinions?

AA: I've had a few people come off live shows that said they were not going to vote for him, but that didn't help. I'm sure you have some people who like the impression and sort of say ‘I like where you're coming from but, ya know, we still support him, but we like the show.’ Of course ,his supporters fall into a category that is sort of difficult, because some of them support those white supremacy blocks, and so on. I think there are a lot of other people that are a function of a white supremacy paradigm in this country, where they don't even think they contribute to that.That does not excuse them, but ignorance is a path to racism, sexism, homophobia so on and so on. We want to reach those people. We want those people that say ‘I'm really struggling and I'm hoping that this person will blow up the system and it will change things for me,’ and sort of say that was not true. This notion of blowing things up didn't do that. So why are you still standing behind someone who didn't even deliver on the thing you wanted? That would be my argument. The other ones are unreachable.

Without a doubt, the best part of Trump being in office, is that we get to continue to watch this show every week. Hopefully, Anthony’s take on the President will convince more people to not support this guy going forward. But what will that mean for the future of The President Show?

Be sure to tune into Comedy Central on Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. starting Oct. 19. Do you have a favorite episode of The President Show?  Can you do a convincing impression of the President?  Let us know in our comments below. Let’s ROLL!!!

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