“My husband has to hear Donald Trump’s voice over and over again,” says Sarah Cooper. “I think he’s probably going to jump out the window at some point.”
The writer-comedian occupies an unusual place in our culture:
Many of her most ardent fans have never heard her talk.
This spring, Cooper started going viral on TikTok and Twitter for her virtuoso Trump lip syncs, satirizing his tackiest and most ludicrous sound bites, such as when he compared himself to Abraham Lincoln or swore he never hid in a bunker.
Her acting is as slyly inspired as her lip-synching.
In “How to Cognitive,” her Trump talks about taking a mental test, with a dumbfounded doctor looking on:
How to cognitive pic.twitter.com/YM51OJ58qA
— Sarah Cooper (@sarahcpr) July 10, 2020
In “How to Bunker,” her Trump defends his honor while cowering in the shower and clutching at the curtain.
In “How to Obamagate,” the president fails to answer what crime, exactly, he’s accusing the former president of committing.
“I like the idea that I’m inspiring the next generation to make fun of our president,” says Cooper.
Prior to TikTok ubiquity, Cooper, who’s Jamaican American, was a little-known stand-up and a Google employee regarded around the office as a consensus builder.
“I would just repeat what other people said and come to an agreement,” she says. “I didn’t want to rock the boat.” Scroll back far enough into her tweets, and you’ll see she also used to be a prolific reply guy, furiously responding to dozens of Trump’s tweets. (Trump blocked her in 2017 for calling him “unfit for office.”)
Like many of us, quarantine boredom drove her to TikTok.
“Being a black woman, I could never get away with talking like that in a meeting, let alone as president of the United States,” Cooper says of Trump’s coronavirus press briefings, which inspired her parodies. Making the videos—a process that can take up to four hours, between memorization and filming—has also given her insight into the president’s psyche: “Any time he had to talk about grief, or loss of life, he stumbled. He’s not comfortable with empathy. He’s not comfortable with grief. He’s not comfortable with anything that makes him feel bad or look bad.”
Though Cooper’s disdain for Trump is clear, MAGA true believers have praised her work:
“I really thought I was going to get a ton of hate mail. [But] that hasn’t happened because, on some level, they’re entertaining to his supporters as well. I don’t know how to feel about that.” Cooper suspects that Trump himself has watched. “I think he thinks I like what he’s saying,” she says, half whispering the dark notion. “Maybe! If you’re a sociopath, you don’t get emotional cues.”
Cooper says she would never parody Trump’s cruelest remarks, like his implication that late representative John Dingell was “looking up” at him from hell (“Just evil,” she says, shaking her head), or his most poorly timed failures: “He messed up several words at a Memorial Day speech and people were like, ‘You should do that!’ But no. It’s still a sacred day.”
While amassing 1.5 million Twitter followers, Cooper has signed with talent agency WME and drawn fans like Halle Berry, Jerry Seinfeld, and news legend Dan Rather—who attributes her appeal, in part, to Trump fatigue.
“You feel like you need to know what he’s saying and doing, [but] you’re sick of what he’s saying,” says Rather. “What she brings is something totally new and fresh. And it’s short.”
With a never-ending stream of terrible Trump quotes, Cooper could lip-synch for years to come.
But instead, she’s hoping to branch out into television.
She’s currently writing and pitching a show about an overly confident boss who “fucks up all over the place and still somehow fails up.”
Who could possibly have inspired that?
Here’s some more clips to enjoy: