Over the phone I heard two voices I had gotten to know quite well through a series of political inspired debates on Youtube, now set on touring the nation in an ultimate display of our polarized popular ideologies and universal absurdity. Within the first few seconds, I was hooked. And by the end of it I felt the surge of political revolution, and the increasing momentum of the triumphantly original and iconic Trump vs. Bernie 2016 Debate Tour. If soon there is to be a sibling to Mt Rushmore constructed in out time, may the faces of Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, James Adomian, and Anthony Atamanuik loom over the forests of the American Midwest.
How did the the first debate come about?
Anthony Atamanuik: I was doing Trump in New York, and I knew James had been doing Bernie for a while. We’d been friends for years, and we’d always done impressions and characters around each other in New York and LA. Actually, James texted me one day and said, “Hey, man, we should try to do this together.” It ended up that we had a good synthesis of a show we could do it at, Whiplash. From there it sort of snowballed because there was a lot of interest.
James Adomian: [Anthony] had the great idea to film the show at Whiplash and have [Anthony Sneed] filming it. It was a pretty popular video on YouTube and from there people were like, “We want to see the whole hour!” or “When are you gonna put it on TV?” So we’re doing what we can, which is a big tour.
I love how you guys are marketing it. I’ve been following closely and a lot of my friends have been as well. I know you guys are going to D.C. Where else are you excited be touring?
JA: Well, we’re very excited to be doing New Hampshire. We’re doing two different cities right before the primary, and we’re going to be right there at the New Hampshire primary.
AA: In the heart of it, right where it all happens, in Manchester.
JA: I think there’s a good chance both Trump and Bernie will win their primaries that night. And that will be perfect.
AA: That will prove that we can finally get our plan of starting the Psychic Friends Network back up and running.
How long have the two of you known each other?
JA: Something like that, yeah. It’s been eight years.
AA: Yeah, eight years. Both Obama terms.
How did you meet—just gigging in similar places?
JA: The Del Close Marathon happens at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York every summer, and they have all the craziest, funniest shows late at night. I think we met at a 2 a.m. show called Match Game 76.
AA: He was Orson Welles, and I was a young John McCain who was just freed from Vietnam.
Have either of you either met Trump or Bernie?
JA: I haven’t met either one of them.
AA: I’m sure I’ve walked by a building Trump was in, living in New York, but no. Never intersected with the man.
JA: We’re hoping to do that in New Hampshire.
AA: Yeah, that would be the goal.
That’s very exciting though, being in NH especially. Who knows, maybe Burlington, Vermont if Bernie wins.
JA: we have two shows in Burlington.
AA: One on the 5th and one on the 6th [of February]. So we’re doing a lot of Bernie stuff. I was actually happy in a weird way that Trump went to Burlington because it sort of justifies my being there for that.
Who would the two of you pick as the vice presidents for your respective candidates?
JA: I think the joke I make on stage is [as Bernie], “We have an offer out to Stevie Nicks, we’re hoping she accepts it.”
AA: I think I always say Bethenny Frankel or Omarosa. But I think I’m going to add Lisa Vanderpump to that list.
Just get them all. You’re Trump, you can have them all.
AA [As Trump]: “I’ll have three vice presidents and a harem.”
So what happens if [Michael] Bloomberg enters the race as an independent, what does that do?
AA: Politically, if Bloomberg enters? It’s going to hurt the democrats.
JA: I think differently. I think Bloomberg hurts Trump more because he’s a billionaire, and having two idiot billionaires like that—
AA: That’s how we see it. That’s how we see it.
JA: I guess I think if Trump were the nominee then Bloomberg would hurt him, but if it’s another Republican, maybe it’s more of a question.
AA: The only reason I say it hurts the Democrats is that when you have someone who is disenfranchised, there’s a lot of young people and a lot of support for Bernie, you’re gonna have a swath of people—it’s a terrible word—but those Reagan Democrats who have swung back to voting for Obama and probably voting for Clinton. They’re going to see Bloomberg as that reasonable option and that will peel away the more consistent voter in that demographic. So just on the pure numbers, I get concerned.
JA: I think Bloomberg is so unpopular, outside of not only New York City but outside of doorman buildings in New York City. I don’t know anyone who would vote for him who’s not rich.
AA: I think a lot of people would be like, “Is Angela Lansbury running for president?”
JA & AA: [singing as Angela Lansbury] “We’ll always be bosom buddies!”
What’s the response been like? Have you had people who are actually upset that you are doing this, or has it been overwhelmingly positive? Do you guys feel great, like this could surge into something more?
JA: Early on, when I was doing Bernie over the summer, before we did “Trump vs. Bernie,” I would check in on The Coast and see what people were saying about it. I was on @Midnight on Comedy Central as Bernie. People see that kind of thing and they talk about it on the internet. It was kind of divided. There were some very sincere activists and very progressive Bernie supporters who would say, “I don’t think it’s good that he’s making fun of the candidate like that on a major network.” A couple people tweeted that at me, but the overwhelming reaction was very positive. I only spoke to the negative ones that stand out as one out of one hundred.
AA: I feel like, first of, I don’t know how many Trump supporters have actually seen me do it. I work in New York, so I find that that’s unlikely. But the other thing is that, I’ve looked at the YouTube comments a couple of times because I too, like to search YouTube comments to see who hates me.
JA: You’re gonna search a long time when you’re Anthony Atamanuik.
AA: There’s this interesting thing with Trump people—they don’t really take you down. They just write in all-cap letters—it’s always in all-cap letters, like your 80-year-old aunt wrote you an email, not to be ageist. It’s usually some sort of statement about Trump and how great he is. Sometimes I wonder if they’re so dim, they don’t realize we’re making fun of them.
JA: We have “Trump vs. Bernie” Twitter and Instagram, and some of the followers are sincere Trump supporters.
Tony, in three words, how would Donald Trump describe himself?
AA [As Trump]: “Winner. Tremendous. Winner.”
James, in ten words, how would Bernie Sanders describe himself?
JA [As Bernie]: “Look, the way I see it, and is this my opinion, I think I’m good.”
Fantastic. I should be able to make to your stop in D.C. on [February] 18th.
JA: Yeah, tickets are going pretty fast for the 18th. We’re going to add shows the next two nights, I believe… Friday night and a Saturday matinee.