What Happens When Sarah Cooper Speaks in Her Own Voice?


Was Donald Trump good for comedy? The comedian Lewis Black not too long ago answered this persistent query with an comprehensible tone of exhaustion, saying the president is “good for comedy in the way a stroke is good for a nap.”

Poking enjoyable at President Trump is each tough (how do you parody somebody who already looks as if one?) and means too straightforward, since any joke about “the orange man in the White House” will get low cost laughs, if not an applause break. Too many stand-ups lately pander to their base. And but, some comics have flourished throughout the Trump period, none extra so than Sarah Cooper, a breakout star whose on-line movies reinvigorated the custom of the presidential impression.

Responding to the newest occasions with the metabolism of cable information, she lip-syncs snippets of the president’s speeches or interviews from her condo, in her personal garments, with no try to mimic his look. She didn’t attempt to imitate him a lot as seize a buffoonish essence, zeroing in on moments the place the juxtaposition between cluelessness and confidence was most stark. Her followers vary from children to grandparents, and her success has now led to a shiny Netflix manufacturing, “Everything’s Fine” (which premiered Tuesday), a celebrity-rich, intermittently humorous sketch present that hangs on a story of apocalyptic doom. Cooper performs a chipper morning talk-show host struggling to take care of her smile because the world round her unravels. It’s historical past that begins as comedy and ends as horror.

“Everything’s Fine” is at times a conventional spoof of daytime television, poking fun at the mandatory cheer of cooking segments and cheesy transitions, as when Cooper introduces a segment with the rapper Megan Thee Stallion by saying: “A lot of us are working from home, but some of us are twerking from home.”

The satire becomes weirder as it widens its focus to subjects like QAnon, police shootings and environmental catastrophe. Cooper does spoof Trump, of course, but she is after the political world that led to his success. The show pivots to parody advertisements (Jon Hamm playing the My Pillow owner selling a Covid cure has a fun “Tim and Eric” vibe), news interviews like one with a robot chief executive played by Ben Stiller, and mock-documentary interludes, like a Ken Burns-style documentary on the history of Karens, featuring the voice of Whoopi Goldberg.

Cooper has an actor’s gift for saying one thing while indicating another; she gets a lot out of a down-turned lip or a darting eye. And this special shows that she can do much more than lip-sync; she has a promising future as an actor in television or movies. She’s currently developing a series for CBS.

She is a perfect foil to the disasters around her, both inside the show (the Wi-Fi goes out, racist white guests ask for her identification) and in the outside world (a meteor is heading toward Earth). A production guy played by Fred Armisen keeps calm, but his constantly shifting costume, from masks to helmets to a beekeeper suit, tells another story.

A staggering number of celebrity cameos (Winona Ryder, Helen Mirren, Aubrey Plaza, Connie Chung) surround the new star, whom everyone keeps calling “Sarah Cooper” as if she’s not yet on a first-name basis with anyone. The comic ideas vary wildly in quality and tone, with a few too many decent but undeveloped ideas, like Cooper struggling to do close-up magic at a drive-in.

“Everything’s Fine” often feels like an episode of “Saturday Night Live,” but at its best, it coheres in stranger, more nightmarish territory. In the final 10 minutes, amid a darkening color palette that evokes a Dario Argento scare sequence, she seems not just frightened by world events, but paralyzed, trapped. Many will relate. Like the recent “South Park” special and the new “Borat,” this show invents a back story for the chaos of the pandemic, finding a comic conspiracy that escalates the stakes.

But this broader story still has some connective tissue with Cooper’s more streamlined videos, and not just because she lip-syncs the president along with his wife and daughter. Seen from a certain angle, becoming famous for performing in the voice of Donald Trump is its own kind of trap. Cooper draws attention to this body-snatching aspect in one subplot in which she responds to producers in the control booth who say they were looking for a nonthreatening Black anchor. “When my parents named me Sarah,” she says, “I feel like a white lady moved into my body and gentrified my whole personality.”

There’s another short, amusing sketch that imagines a version of “Get Out” set at Mar-a-Lago that plays on similar themes. But Jordan Peele made a horror movie whose scares were goosed by comedy; Cooper’s show is a comedy that gets so dark that it can’t go anywhere but horror.



Source link Nytimes.com

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