9:00am PT by Chris Gardner
Trump Impersonator Sarah Cooper on President's Election Loss: "I'm Happy"
As COVID-19 cases surged across the country, President Donald Trump emerged Nov. 13 in the White House’s Rose Garden for a news conference, his first major speech since Joe Biden was named the next president of the United States. Sarah Cooper, who struck comedy gold by imitating Trump in a series of viral videos, was not glued to the TV nor was she planning the next imitation of her longtime target.
Instead, Cooper was on the phone with The Hollywood Reporter, revealing that she was actually still in bed, resting from a dizzying few weeks of press and promotion for her debut Netflix special, Everything’s Fine. Though fans and followers are still clamoring for Cooper to deliver more Trump-related content, she's got other projects on the brain.
Cooper is developing a show with Cindy Chupack, Nina Tassler, Denise Di Novi and Joan Boorstein for CBS based on her book How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings, is working on an Audible original and has ideas for another sketch special, among other feature ideas. THR caught up with Cooper to discuss all of the above, how she'll move forward in a post-Trump world and who is making her laugh in 2020.
When the news was announced that CBS was developing your book How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings, Cindy Chupack said, “Sarah is a perfect example of ‘preparation meets opportunity.’” Did you feel prepared?
I can't even put it into words. I do think that I am more ready than I would have been. I really wanted to make it big at 30, and so I feel like I am more prepared than if that were to have happened. I haven't changed. Back then, I always thought, “I’m not good enough. I’m not ready.” Now, I feel like I’m still the same person. I’ve just now accepted that I’m not cool. I like '70s soft rock, like Neil Diamond. The Trump videos are one thing, but it has led to working with Cindy Chupack and having my books rediscovered. That feels really good, to see all of these things that I did before come back because I had kind of given up on them. That’s been awesome.
What’s the wildest thing that has happened?
Being directed by Natasha Lyonne and having a special on Netflix — that has just been crazy. Meeting all the celebrities has been amazing.
Let’s stay on Natasha Lyonne because she deserves a lot of breath and ink. What did you learn from her?
Just constant passion. There’s no off switch. She’s always working her ass off, and she got involved in every single aspect. She had an amazing vision for what she wanted [the special] to be, and she was tireless with making sure that vision came true. I learned a lot about hard work by watching her, and when you really care about something, you stay with it until your dying breath. It was a real inspiration to work with her.
What did you take away from watching Maya Rudolph work up close?
She makes it look easy. That’s the thing I learned — she makes it look effortless and it’s really, really not. She has the talent in making even the simplest, silliest whatever line just an event. I had been a fan of hers for over a decade, so getting to meet her was amazing, but also just getting to watch her work and improv with Fred Armisen was so much fun.
How did this special impact what you want to do professionally moving forward?
I feel like realized how much I want to say and how many things I want to write. I want to write movies. I am writing the CBS show and I have an idea for another sketch special that I’m already writing. The special made me realize how much I love writing and that there's a lot of things that are really important to me that I want to do. It’s just made me really excited for the future.
How are you compartmentalizing time to be creative?
I take a lot of naps and I definitely have to unwind as much as possible. I love full days where I have nothing [on my schedule]. Those are my favorite days, especially if it's like raining outside. I think I'm going to be taking off some time coming up, kind of like a vacation that will be my focused writing time. But it doesn’t really feel like work yet. Right now, it still feels like a lot of fun.
A of people credit your success to Trump, which is fair, but on a virtual panel, you gave some credit to Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way for influencing your path. What impact did the course have on you?
Just the act of actually finishing was big, which can be the biggest thing with any piece of art — just finishing it because if you don’t, you never feel like it’s good enough or you’re good enough, all of that stuff. Finishing it gave me so much confidence in being able to move forward and get things done. I wasn’t perfect at doing my morning pages, but being able to get through the 12 weeks allowed me to believe in myself.
How are you about watching your work? Does it inform your process or do you not enjoy it?
Yes, to both questions. (Laughs.) I both can learn from it and sometimes I don't enjoy it. I watched the special several times before it was released and then after it's come out, I've watched it twice. It’s a tough thing. Just like with writing the book, when you print it, you can’t change it. Now, when I see it onscreen, I can feel that I wish I had done this or that differently. There are those feelings, but at the same time, I'm super proud of it. The fact that we were able to do it under these conditions so fast was amazing. It gets me excited to make something else knowing everything I learned being on set.
Is there a sense of relief now not having to film yourself and keep up with the output of the Trump videos? How do you feel about letting that go?
I kind of go back and forth with it. Every day, someone says I should make a new video and then I feel bad [for not]. For a while, there was a lot of pressure of turning them around, and so I’m happy that’s not there anymore and I can make one when I feel like it for the fun of it, not because I need it to go viral. I kind of like the external pressure taken off of me. Now, if he says something really ridiculous, I can make something for fun and that’s how it started.
Is that the plan? I know you said on The View that you were done but is that definitive or will you continue here and there?
Yeah, I don't have any plans to continue, but if he says something that I think would be funny, like with that first clip [How to Medical], I don't think I would ignore that feeling.
How are you processing his refusal to concede?
I was fearful at first and now that I’ve seen him losing in court every single day, losing Fox News and Republican support, it feels like it’s really over even though he won’t admit it. I was watching The Office last night, and it was the episode where Will Ferrell comes in and he’s the new supervisor. Michael doesn't want to leave, so they are both the manager. It would be funny if that were to happen [with Trump] if weren’t so sad and had such an effect on our democracy. It feels like every day we’ve gotten a little bit closer to being rid of him, so that feels really good.
You have been singled out for bringing joy and comfort during the challenging times. What or who does that for you?
I get high and then I get a massage — that’s the best thing in the whole world. That is like my perfect escape. And I take a lot of naps. Also watching Fox News implode really brings me so much comfort.
In terms of other comedians, who makes you laugh?
I'm really excited about Eric Andre's new season — he cracks me up. I just watched Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House of Fun. It’s so, so funny — just really, really good sketch comedy. I'm really excited that Chappelle's Show is coming back. I’m going to watch all of those again. Re-watching Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm always, always makes me happy.
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.