Sarah Cooper on Trump ‘Fatigue’ and ‘Waking Up’ to Politics Again

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Corinne Louie
Corinne Louie

Sarah Cooper became famous using only her face to lip-sync Donald Trump. Now, in her new audiobook, all she has to work with is her voice.

In her return to The Last Laugh podcast, Cooper reflects on the “craziest” few years of her life, from having “no idea” what she was doing on her own Netflix special, to guest-hosting Jimmy Kimmel Live! before ever performing stand-up on TV, to landing a role in her comedy hero Jerry Seinfeld’s upcoming Pop-Tart movie. Cooper also dishes on the right-wing politician she recently tried lip-syncing and reveals why she will “never” again imitate Donald Trump.

When I bring up the irony of her putting out an audiobook, Cooper acknowledges with a laugh, “Yeah, no one knows what I sound like.”

The comedian was first approached by Audible to write her own take on Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People two years before her pandemic-fueled rise to fame on social media. Cooper had vaguely heard of the 1936 self-help book, but had never read it and initially rejected the idea. She had left her job at Google to pursue comedy a few years prior and, despite getting a couple of humor books published, “things weren’t going that great.” So she agreed to at least give it a shot.

“I wrote a book called 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings and I felt like this was that book,” she says of her inspiration for the new audiobook, titled Lets Catch Up Soon: How I Won Friends and Influenced People Against My Will. “It was basically just like, ‘Here are these tricks to make people like you.’ But my book was a joke, and this book is serious!” She set out to write her version as a “satire,” but once she decided to start actually putting Carnegie’s tips into practice, she realized she may have been too quick to dismiss them.

“Instead of this ironic thing it became this perhaps too earnest, really life-changing experience for me that I ended up writing over 2019, 2020, and 2021,” she adds, “which were three of the craziest years of my life.”

Only six months elapsed between the time her first Trump video—titled “How to Medical”—went viral to the release of her star-studded Netflix special, Everything’s Fine. The special, which premiered in October 2020, was produced by Maya Rudolph, directed by Natasha Lyonne, and featured cameos from Ben Stiller, Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Hamm, and, in a truly inspired piece of casting, Helen Mirren as Billy Bush.

Even Cooper can admit now that the whole thing felt a little rushed to capitalize on her sudden success, and openly says in her audiobook that she had “no idea” what she was doing when she made it.

“I think I was trying to do too many things,” Cooper says now. “I was kind of a control freak and I didn’t let people who knew better than me walk me through things and help me make those decisions. But I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.

“The fact that it got made at all is a miracle,” she adds, noting that it was made pre-COVID vaccine. “I wouldn’t change anything about it, I just wish I was a more experienced person at the time it was made. I wish I had 10 years of experience in the entertainment world before I became number one on the call sheet on my own special.”

Next came the opportunity to create her own CBS sitcom based on her 2018 book How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings. However, the network ultimately decided not to pick it up after they made the pilot—another important learning experience for Cooper.

“I want my own show so badly. I’ve always wanted that,” she says, citing Abbott Elementary creator and star Quinta Brunson as an example of someone she is “so impressed” was able to make a genuinely funny hit show on network TV.

For now, she will have to settle for co-starring in her first big movie, Unfrosted: The Pop-Tart Story, which happens to be the directorial debut of her comedy hero, Jerry Seinfeld. In fact, her first scene was opposite Seinfeld, Melissa McCarthy, and Hugh Grant.

“I can’t even describe the level of excitement that I have about this project,” Cooper, who says she’s seen every episode of Seinfeld at least 18 times, tells me. “I’ve never really been on a set like this before and it’s just been a blast but also super intimidating, because I’m working with people who have conquered the comedy world for years.”

Below is an edited excerpt from our conversation. You can listen to the whole thing—including stories from behind the scenes of her Netflix special, Jerry Seinfeld’s new movie, and more—by subscribing to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts, and be the first to hear new episodes when they are released every Tuesday.

You were so associated with politics and Trump for so long, but it doesn’t seem like that’s something that’s super interesting to you these days, is it?

That’s such a good question. Yeah, I was obsessed with politics for most of my life. Roe v. Wade is something that I was scared of getting overturned since I was 20. And after Biden was elected and there was this huge sigh of relief, I kind of checked out a little bit, and I kind of was happy to check out a little bit because it was really overwhelming. I mean, Trump exhausted me.

And you were really in it. You were really paying attention, more than most people, because you were making these videos and you had to keep on top of it in some way.

Yeah, exactly. And I had people writing, like, “Do this one, do this one, do this one!”

You probably watched 100 times more Trump clips than you actually made.

Yeah, and I listened to him over and over and over when I made those videos.

I don’t know how you survived.

I don’t know either. I really don’t. But yeah, I think I was just fatigued by it, and I think I’ve woken up a little bit. I just read an article about how Texas Republicans are now making fun of Dan Crenshaw the same way that Pete Davidson made fun of Dan Crenshaw years ago. And everyone was like, “Fuck you, Pete, for doing that.”

Sarah Cooper on the Moment She Realized Her Trump Impression Had ‘Gone Too Far’

Even Tucker Carlson did that recently. He was making fun of his eyepatch on his show, and he was one of the people going after Pete Davidson.

So now I’m like, “Oh wow, they really do just make their own reality.” I mean, in a weird way, they are just like, “This is the world we live in. And we’re going to manifest whatever we want.” It’s scary. And I’m kind of starting to listen a little bit more. In my head, it’s a small segment of society that’s lost their way. I’m hoping it’s a small segment. I don’t know how big that segment of society is. I don’t know how much they’re going to turn out this year for the midterms. I know that the Republican thought process, that only a small fraction of Americans actually agree with it, and so it feels like we are being controlled by a minority. So I’ve taken a little mental break and I’m hoping to get back into it, because it’s obviously very important.

Does that include creatively, in terms of the stuff you would put out online? I know when we talked last time, you basically didn’t think you were ever going to do Trump videos again, but you said you knew there was going to be a time when you saw him say something and you’d be tempted to do it. Or people were asking you to do it. So whether it’s Trump or other kinds of political content, do you think about doing that again?

I do. I mean, the other day, I didn’t know what was going on with Herschel Walker and you know, Matt, I’ll tell you, just for myself, I started lip-syncing him a little bit.

Oh? That’s interesting.

It wasn’t. I felt like I was literally making fun of someone who, mentally, is not all there.

As opposed to Trump?

[Laughs] I know, right? But with Trump, he just keeps repeating himself, so I just feel like he’s not going to say anything new, so there’s nothing new to do there. So no, I don’t think I’ll ever lip-sync a politician again. Lip-syncing is fun, so I’ll probably do it in some capacity in the future. But I will never lip-sync Trump again.

And trying someone else didn’t feel right?

No. It didn’t feel right. It felt like that was a moment in 2020. And it’s really cool getting to meet Melissa McCarthy and having her go, “Oh my god, those videos!” Hugh Grant said the same thing to me. So I am starting to see the impact that they had. What so many people say to me over and over again is, “you saved me in the pandemic” or “you made the pandemic bearable” or “you helped me get through the pandemic.” I’m proud of that. I’m proud that it helps people so much. And I think the next thing that’s going to be that thing—I don’t know that it’s going to come from me.

Listen to the episode now and subscribe to ‘The Last Laugh’ on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts, and be the first to hear new episodes when they are released every Tuesday.

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