How The President Show Predicts Trump’s Every Move, Weeks in Advance


In the pilot of The President Show, which aired in April, Anthony Atamanuik’s “Donald Trump” character fielded a question that rings especially poignant just a few months later. After he announced that the first episode’s theme would be “America First,” one of the fake journalists in the crowd asked, “Mr. President, isn’t that a white nationalist slogan?”

Excuse me, excuse me,” the farcical president replied. “I’m white, I live in this nation; I guess that makes me a white nationalist!”

As the president’s bungled response to the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, continues to drive him to public meltdowns, that exchange retrospectively stings. Of course, The President Show wasn’t the only outlet alluding to the ties between Trump and white nationalists—but this series has shown an uncanny ability to anticipate Trump’s gaffes, even months in advance. As a new video from Comedy Central points out, Atamanuik and his team of writers also predicted, among other things, that the president would promise Guam a tourism boost now that North Korea is threatening to nuke it, and that he would stare directly into the sun, as he did this week during the eclipse.

How do they do it? Atamanuik, who has been studying the president since he and James Adomian launched their live show, Trump vs. Bernie, explains that the secret is hacking into the Donald Trump source code.

Atamanuik says he came up with a predictive model, which helped him “learn how [Trump] thinks, as opposed to trying to duplicate what he says.” That Trump-bot thinking became an integral part of The President Show’s D.N.A. “Like an infection, it moved from me to all the writers, and we’re all diseased now.”

How, exactly, does this predictive model work? It essentially comes down to thinking about your pettiest institutional frustrations—say, your hatred for the subway system—and applying that ire to Trump’s own “palette” of ideologies: “immigrants, racism, warmongering, bragging, sexism.”

“You take your grievance and put it into one of those buckets,” Atamanuik said. “And then, essentially, you’ll predict something that he’s going to do or say.”

An example? Back in 2015, Atamanuik was stewing about his drugstore’s rewards point system. He channeled that frustration into his Trump impression, guessing that Trump would eventually create a citizenship points system. In early August, Trump announced his intention to do just that.

“It wasn’t about trying to say, ‘What would Trump do?’“ Atamanuik said, “because that’s giving Trump too much credit. Donald Trump is simply a series of emotional states that are combined together to create the illusion of a personality. All he is, really, is whatever grievance you have. Whatever resentment, whatever pettiness lives in you.” He’s also “a pure ego,” the sort of person who would assume he can stare directly into the sun without facing any consequences.

Atamanuik is ambivalent about some of the reaction his show has generated—with Anthony Scaramucci, for example, tweeting approvingly about Mario Cantone’s spot-on President Show impression of him. As Atamanuik put it, “It’s a weird thing to have the people you’re mocking sort of say that they enjoyed you, because you wonder if they got the point. But then at the same time . . . everyone’s a person, and I’m sure if you’re some Washingtonian sort of former Goldman Sachs guy, and you’ve got TV people playing you, you’re gonna be excited and happy that you were even represented.”

Does he hope the president himself watches the show? Only if the program could give Trump some sort of epiphany—which Atamanuik knows won’t happen. He does, however, note something with pride: “Our show and our network, we’ve never invited the president on our show. And our show never rubbed the president’s hair. All I know is our show’s nose is clean.”

As for those hoping the show might “predict” another Trump foible—namely, his resignation? Atamanuik has some bad news: the show has no magical powers, he swears, and cannot will events into existence. “It doesn’t work like that.”

Do you have what it takes?Test your knowledge of the Seven Kingdoms with Vanity Fair’s Game of Unknowns.Make your predictions

Full ScreenPhotos:Vintage Behind-the-Scenes Photos of The Daily Show

Stewart with executive producer Ben Karlin and then head writer David Javerbaum, 2004.

Photo: By Charles Ommanney/Contact Press Images.

Stewart meeting with staff, 2004.

Stewart meeting with staff, 2004.

Photo: By Charles Ommanney/Contact Press Images.

Stewart in Philadelphia, 2000.

Stewart in Philadelphia, 2000.

Photo: By Andrew Matheson.

Photo: By Ethan Miller/.

Mo Rocca, Walls Carell, Lewis Black, Colbert, Vance DeGeneres, Stewart, and Carell in 2000.

Mo Rocca, Walls Carell, Lewis Black, Colbert, Vance DeGeneres, Stewart, and Carell in 2000.

Photo: By Al Levine/Comedy Central.

Stewart during a V.F. photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz, 2004.

Stewart during a V.F. photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz, 2004.

Photo: Photograph by Kathryn MacLeod.

Stewart with, from left, writers Rich Blomquist, J. R. Havlan, Jason Reich, and Tim Carvell, photographed
by Annie Leibovitz on the *Daily Show* set in 2004.

Stewart with, from left, writers Rich Blomquist, J. R. Havlan, Jason Reich, and Tim Carvell, photographed
by Annie Leibovitz on the Daily Show set in 2004.

Photo: Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

Stewart with executive producer Ben Karlin and then head writer David Javerbaum, 2004.

By Charles Ommanney/Contact Press Images.

Stewart meeting with staff, 2004.

By Charles Ommanney/Contact Press Images.

Stewart in Philadelphia, 2000.

By Andrew Matheson.

By Ethan Miller/.

Colbert at the Republican National Convention, 2000.

By Andrew Matheson.

Karlin, co-creator and executive producer Madeleine Smithberg, and Stewart on set, circa 2000.

From The Neal Peters Collection.

Stewart, Carell, and Stephen Colbert at the 2007 Emmys.

By Mike Blake/Reuters.

Mo Rocca, Walls Carell, Lewis Black, Colbert, Vance DeGeneres, Stewart, and Carell in 2000.

By Al Levine/Comedy Central.

Stewart during a V.F. photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz, 2004.

Photograph by Kathryn MacLeod.

Stewart with, from left, writers Rich Blomquist, J. R. Havlan, Jason Reich, and Tim Carvell, photographed
by Annie Leibovitz on the Daily Show set in 2004.

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.





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