While preparing for this interview with Anthony Atamanuik, the man behind Comedy Central‘s faux Donald Trump on The President Show, my politics-averse girlfriend stumbled in on me watching the first month’s worth of episodes. The look of disgusted irritation she made didn’t surprise me, especially since I watch a lot of cable news for work. Yet when I explained President Show was a parody, and Atamanuik’s Trump wasn’t the real deal, her disgust remained. I told the Upright Citizens Brigade alum this during our conversation, and empathized with a 13 Reasons Why comparison: “I’m sure its critical acclaim is earned, but I wouldn’t want to watch it. I just don’t want to watch something about suicide.”
“I would just say what my grandmother said, ‘There’s a seat for every tuchus,'” he continues, “but that’s the short answer. And not to be critical of your girlfriend, but the reality we live in is that Donald Trump is President of the United States of America. Whether we like it or not, that’s the way it is, and the belief that we can go on ignoring him and whatever else we don’t like means we are doomed to repeat the exact same mistakes that got us into this mess in the first place. What got him elected was our aversion to paying attention to him.”
Atamanuik reiterates he isn’t criticizing my girlfriend, nor anyone else who refuses to watch news reports or comedy bits mentioning Trump. Though such avoidance cannot possibly be healthy, he argues, since a combination of it, entrenched assumptions, and faulty polling are what many experts credit Trump’s startling election victory to. As the self-described leftist comic puts it, we could have avoided this upset altogether. “Coastal and river elites having not only contempt,” he says, “but a lack of understanding for a large swath of the country, also put him in the White House.”
So what does The President Show host think the answer is, then? Should we be reading, listening to, or watching the bare minimum of Trump possible? Or should we consume every single second of coverage there is? Neither, instead of quantifying everything, Atamanuik believes viewers should consider the kind, or quality of media they plug into — be it Stephen Colbert’s biting comedy or Van Jones’ thoughtful commentary. People may even want to have sympathy for the Donald, an idea he suggests isn’t as supportive as most think.