Thursday, July 21, 2016

Laura Benanti's Melania Trump impression on Colbert is the funniest satirical encapsulation of the surreal, so-white-it-makes-Lawrence-Welk-look-like-106-&-Park shitshow that is the 2016 RNC

Like I've said before, whenever there's a news story that involves race, I've lately found myself saying, "I can't wait to hear what Larry Wilmore has to say." The controversy over Melania Trump's 2016 Republican National Convention speech sounding exactly like Michelle Obama's 2008 Democratic National Convention speech may not be tied to a thornier current subject like racially motivated bullying or police reform, but her act of plagiarism is yet another example of a white woman stealing from a black woman, so I was wondering when The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore would distinguish itself from other late-night comedy shows and point out how the former supermodel's RNC speech reeks of cultural appropriation. The Nightly Show did not disappoint.

"Trump should have come out and said, 'We made Michelle's speech great again! That was the greatest plagiarized speech evah! It was yooge!,'" joked Nightly Show head writer Robin Thede during the show's July 19 panel segment, which centered on the panelists' bafflement over how the campaign of Donald Trump, the candidate with the Freddy Lippincottleman hairdo and all the charm and intellect of a crumpled Kleenex full of dried splooge, has reached new lows as an underhanded presidential campaign. Wilmore added that Drumpf should further hype up his wife's speech, which she claimed to have written plagiarized by herself, with "The blacks did [this speech], but we made it great!" Thede and Wilmore's fellow panelist, Nightly Show executive producer Rory Albanese, amusingly compared Mrs. Trump to hot girls in high school who copy answers from nerds or shoplift and never get in trouble for it, but the plagiarism reminded me way more of the following moment from a hard-hitting documentary about cultural appropriation:

An even funnier riff on this Toro from Slovenia stealing from a Clover and calling it something different took place over on a live telecast of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert earlier this week (Colbert has never really done live episodes before, other than whenever The Colbert Report would go live on election nights, so this RNC week of live shows is nicely bringing back both an edge and a sense of experimentation that have been largely missing from Colbert's CBS show). I never noticed Broadway star Laura Benanti bears an uncanny resemblance to Trump's supermodel wife until she portrayed Melania in Colbert's July 19 cold open (she looks so much like her that I first thought that was the real Melania in the cold open's YouTube thumbnail), and as Melania, she responded to the allegations of plagiarism--by plagiarizing everything from Charles Dickens to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme.

Before her RNC speech, Melania has been such a mystery to the public that barely anybody (outside of either SNL viewers who are familiar with Cecily Strong's Melania impression or Trump supporters) knows how her voice sounds. I never knew what her voice was like. I was expecting her to have a Harvey Fierstein rasp like Dr. Mrs. the Monarch on The Venture Bros. Benanti didn't know how Melania spoke either, and as she noted in a Vulture interview shortly after her hilarious impression went viral, the Late Show staff gave her only several hours before airtime to study Melania's Slovenian accent and prepare ("Monday night was the first night I really heard her talk").

The most interesting thing about Benanti's Melania impression--other than the "Blue Steel" expressions, Benanti's observation that "Even though there was a microphone, [Melania] was shouting" and the fact that Benanti is more attractive than the plagiarist she's impersonating (beauty and brains will always be superior to beauty)--is that this isn't the first wife of an evil prick Benanti has portrayed this year. Between Melania and Benanti's dual role as the hologram of Alura, Kara's dead Kryptonian mother, and Astra, Alura's evil twin sister, during the first season of Supergirl (actually, Astra started out as a villain, but she gradually found herself opposing her much more evil husband Non), it appears as if Benanti is turning into the go-to woman for otherworldly wives of power-hungry douchenozzles.

Like Tina Fey's Sarah Palin and Jay Pharoah's Ben Carson before her, Benanti's Melania impression is the type of impression you want to see more of because it's so amusingly dead-on, but you're also so worried about the actual political ascent of the cringe-inducing public figure they're mocking that there's a queasiness in the pit of your stomach that keeps you from fully enjoying the impression. This country is fucking doomed if a racist and extremely thin-skinned old fuck who should never be allowed near the nuclear button (that is if his tiny hands can reach it) and a woman who lifts an entire paragraph from the First Lady as if the dog ate her homework both end up moving to the White House.

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