There is a certain show business anecdote which I bet you know; I’ve heard a couple of versions of it. One is when JFK was shot; Lenny Bruce said “Man, Vaughn Meader is fucked”. The other is when Nixon resigned: Paul Krassner is supposed to have said, “Man, David Frye is fucked!” I’m pretty sure John Di Domenico isn’t fucked, and that’s a mixed blessing I guess: good for him, rotten for us.
Don’t know the name? I am going to make the astounding declaration that, for what it’s worth, John di Domenico is the best Donald Trump impressionist on the comedy landscape. I’ve seen them all, all the late night guys anyway. They all get a piece of the character, especially Alec Baldwin, Colbert, Fallon, Noah (believe it or not) and Meyers (probably the worst one, as he’d be first to admit). What their impressions have in common though is what we in the acting trade call “commenting”, or what Brecht called “distanciation”. Their impersonations editorialize, never once letting us forget how much Trump is loathed by the impressionist. All of their scorn for him is worn on their sleeves as they imitate his arrogant, ignorant braying and whining. I’ve made no secret of my hatred for Trump, but the critic in me, while amused at the ‘tude, also values verisimilitude.
I discovered Di Domenico in rather a delightful fashion. Part of my morning ritual is to catch up with the late night comedians on Youtube while I do my busy work. Generally I just click the first clip, and it automatically cycles through the queue of related ones. Once, I had it on for a long time, it played through all the network guys, and Di Domenico’s videos came up next. I found his take on the character refreshingly hilarious. One thing he catches that the other guys miss is Trump the cheerfully confident, stupid huckster. To be clear: it’s not that the other guys don’t convey it, but they present it satirically — they are bright wiseacres tipping their hand to the audience that they’re not as stupid as Trump is. Believe it or not, Di Domenico’s impression is not “political” in that way. It is more a burlesque than a satire. Believe me, he catches all of the warts — his Trump is dumb, greedy, superficial and all the rest. But he has FUN. He embodies him. That’s one of the first rules of acting, isn’t it? The villian doesn’t think he’s a bad guy! Di Domenico plays him like it’s really great to be him. He’s captured the spirit of the low-level bullshit artist who wants to sell you some stolen watches out of the trunk of his car, which at bottom, is what Trump has always been. Most of Di Domenico’s bits have been in the form of press conferences. I can’t tell how much he’s ad libbing or how much he has pre-prepared and is reading off a teleprompter, but I get the feeling that he could riff and riff and riff in the character, and that’s where the gold is.
Believe it or not, this may be the only Trump impression that could possibly be performed before a crowd of Trump fans without getting the comedian lynched. I remind you, he makes fun of Trump the entire time. But I also remind you that most of Trump’s fans think Trump is funny as well. Watch them at his rallies. Many of his supporters laugh not only with but also AT him. Don’t ask me how you can vote for somebody you laugh at for being a stupid idiot, but that’s the lay of the land these days.
Now: Di Domenico does numerous impressions of other celebrities and public figures, and is even funny as himself, so I think his career is pretty safe even if Trump were to be suddenly kidnapped by aliens — which after all, is probably what his QAnon followers are expecting. And truth to tell, hey, Rich Little is still trotting out Nixon and Ronald Reagan impressions. It’s sad that he’s doing it 40 years after it was topical, but I’m sure he eats better than I do. And Di Domenico, I’m sure, is enjoying the best days of his career.
To check out John Di Domenico’s work, go to his website here, and/or search him on Youtube. Guy makes me laugh!