The Hippo


Jun 18, 2019








“Donald Trump” and “Bernie Sanders.” Courtesy photo.

Trump vs. Bernie: The Debate! Starring James Adomian and Anthony Atamanuik

When: Monday, Feb. 8 
Early: 7:30 p.m. at 3S Artspace, 319 Vaughan St., Portsmouth – tickets $15 at ($18/day of)
Late: 9 p.m. at Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester – tickets $15 at ($18/day of).
Watch a preview at: or

Electoral jokes
Comics imagine Trump/Sanders debate

By Michael Witthaus

 While the odds of the primary campaign’s two most colorful characters facing off in the fall seem unlikely despite the polls, you can get a glimpse of what it would be like — entertaining, no doubt — in Trump vs. Bernie: The Debate! 

Starring Anthony Atamanuik and James Adomian as the respective candidates, the mock election event will happen the night before New Hampshire’s primary, twice: early in Portsmouth, and later in Manchester. But this is no historical pre-enactment; it’s performance art by two veteran comics who first did their faux oratorical mano a mano last October at New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. 
Both are razor sharp impressionists. As Sanders, Adomian is a charming frump who concedes to looking like he’s “running for president of the Muppets,” while Atamanuik perfectly nails Trump’s blustering campaign style: “I’m killing everyone in the polls, and when I’m elected, I’m killing everyone,” he says at one point. 
Salon hailed Adomian as “the best Bernie Sanders impression in the game” and a New York Times writer called their Whiplash showcase appearance “the best comedy sketch about the current political campaign that I’ve seen this year.”
Each came to their role for different reasons. Adomian is a longtime Sanders admirer, going back to his Congressional days. 
“When he announced [he was running] for president, I thought oh, now he’ll be famous enough for people to know him,” he said during a joint phone interview with Atamanuik. “I kind of forced the issue.”
Atamanuik, on the other hand, is no fan of his subject. 
“I haven’t thought about this for years; I didn’t follow him other than seeing him as a bloated orange sideshow,” he said. “I had to learn a lot about him … because there’s nothing.”
Adomian was doing his Bernie shtick in L.A. when he heard about his friend’s newfound impression and thought, why not a debate? 
“I hadn’t seen him [do Trump] but I knew it would be great,” he said. “I was coming to New York for shows [so] I hit him up and said, ‘We gotta do this.’”
Soon a tour was in the works, which both knew definitely had to include New Hampshire; Adomian is already popular locally. 
“When we had James last summer, he got a standing ovation with a full house on a Wednesday,” said Nick Lavallee, who helps run the weekly comedy nights at Manchester’s Shaskeen Pub. “I’m psyched we were reached out to for this tour.”
Although he has yet to meet actual Trump fans, Atamanuik isn’t worried. 
“‘I’m curious whether there will be any that come to the shows,” he said. “Whether I’ll have any sort of altercation or interaction.”
Chimed Adomian, “I can’t wait until some Trump supporters at the show hear the crazy things that you’re saying.”
Atamanuik replied without missing a beat. 
“I don’t think they’ll really know the difference. It will be interesting to even see them try to heckle because Donald Trump has a very good way of handling that: isolate, humiliate and then remove. I guess I’ll just employ his strategy.”
Both are fans of Dana Carvey, who did both Ross Perot and George Bush on SNL in the 1980s and ’90s, and Phil Hartman, the late comic who owned the role of Bill Clinton during his presidency. It begs the question — if either Trump or Sanders wins, is either prepared for four years of impressions?
“I don’t want my guy to win,” Atamanuik said. “I want me out of a job.” 
On the other hand, “I am ready to serve,” Adomian said.
Apart from a rough list of topics like family values, income inequality, foreign policy and bipartisan cooperation, the exchange of “ideas” is entirely improvised. Atamanuik unchains Trump’s id like he’s Jim Morrison playing New Haven in 1968 — but instead of unzipping leather pants, he’s musing about laws of nature he’d like to break.
“I’m the person most concerned I’ll get arrested for indecency, but Trump opens you up to all of that,” Atamanuik said. “I mean, he was the first person to call out his incestuous thoughts about his daughter, so I’m only repeating what he’s put out.”
It’s a statement that echoes a typical stump speech disclaimer from The Donald: “His words, not mine. … I’m just saying.”
Of course, Adomian is enthusiastic about his fellow comic’s rude behavior dressed as political incorrectness. After all, he wants his guy to win. 
“Tony always says that he’s just holding up a mirror to how horrific the world is,” Adomian said. “I love that.” 

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