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On ‘The President Show,’ Fake Donald Trump Builds a White House Staff

The chances of Anthony Scaramucci and Steve Bannon crossing paths in real life seems pretty slim, given the events of recent days. On Comedy Central’s “President Show,” however, the two are about to come together in a big way.

When the program’s newest episode debuts Thursday night at 11:30 p.m. eastern, Bannon and the now-exiled White House communications director known as “The Mooch” – played by comic actors John Gemberling and Mario Cantone, respectively –  will appear with the show’s version of President Donald Trump, played by host Anthony Atamanuik.

With its conceit of turning the Trump White House into a late-night show hosted by the Commander-in-Chief, “The President Show” could simply play off a never-ending flow of news from Washington. But Atamanuik says he wants the program to make headlines of its own.

“We are ahead of the game, on top of the game and making the game in a real way,” he said Wednesday afternoon before heading to a table read for tomorrow night’s broadcast. His Trump  was the first to utter,“I’m the President, can you believe it?” before his real-life counterpart used a similar phrase in the Rose Garden. And “President Show” is the first of TV’s late-night satire programs to trot out an actual impression of Bannon (“Saturday Night Live” has used a frightening skull-faced figure to play the role of the White House advisor). The results have been intriguing, hilarious and a little dark.

But they are working. Comedy Central has twice ordered new episodes of the program, which will move to midnight on Thursdays on September 28, when the Viacom-owned network launches a new 11:30 program, “The Opposition with Jordan Klepper.”

“I love the fact that we are sort of this weird comic-art collective that somehow is on a corporate network,” said Atamanuik. “We are getting away with something I didn’t think was possible on television.”

Over the weeks, the show has given Atamanuik’s President Trump lots of playmates. Peter Grosz, one of the executive producers, has portrayed an obviously fearful Vice President Pence as Trump’s late-night sidekick since the series’ start. But Adam Pally, another executive producer, recently debuted as Donald Trump, Jr., and Cantone made headlines with his impression of the unorthodox Scaramucci.

Just as the real President and Scaramucci knew each other before the White House, Atamanuik and Cantone were acquaintances before this unorthodox series debuted. Indeed, Atamanuik’s mother taught Cantone dancing at Boston’s Emerson College when the host was growing up. “I met him when I was ten years old,” Atamanuik recalled. A simple direct message through Twitter brought Cantone into the show’s fold.

Each character has to have its own “take,” said Atamanuik. “Mario, who’s ‘The Mooch,’ he’s the Fonz from ‘Happy Days.’ He’s Carmine from ‘Laverne & Shirley.’ He’s a little bit of Lenny and Squiggy. He’s a little bit of Joey from ‘Blossom.’” Bannon, meanwhile, “is like the kid who always wanted to the Ouija board and do a séance when he came over for a sleepover. He’s the weird kid, who always had a laptop open during class.”

Viewers may not see impressions of Trumpworld associates who have been defined more clearly elsewhere, such as on “Saturday Night Live,” said Atamanuik. “We would never do a Sean Spicer,” he said. “There would be no point.” Others, however, could be on the way. Unlike the real President, Atamanuik doesn’t have to gain approval from Congress for many of the top positions in his version of the White House.

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