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Here’s what you need to know about Maryland comic Sarah Cooper and the ‘understated perfection’ of her Trump impersonation

Comedian Sarah Cooper, who moved to Rockville at age 3 from her native Jamaica and later graduated from the University of Maryland College Park, is on the brink of becoming a household name — if she isn’t one already.
Comedian Sarah Cooper, who moved to Rockville at age 3 from her native Jamaica and later graduated from the University of Maryland College Park, is on the brink of becoming a household name — if she isn’t one already. (Mindy Tucker/Handout / TNS)

First, came an appearance on “The Ellen Show” on May 26. That was followed quickly by not one, but two admiring reviews in The New York Times and a guest spot on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

The actor Ben Stiller has described comedian Sarah Cooper’s TikTok video impersonations of President Donald Trump as “understated perfection,” and there have been public calls to add the fortysomething writer and actress to the cast of “Saturday Night Live.” Jerry Seinfeld and Bette Midler are fans.

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Clearly Cooper, who moved to Rockville at age 3 from her native Jamaica and later graduated from the University of Maryland College Park, is on the brink of becoming a household name — if she isn’t one already.

”A lot of people think I was dropped on my head as a baby,” the comic tweeted late Wednesday In her typical deadpan style, “but it actually happened much later in life.”

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The New York-based Cooper has been making people laugh for a long time through her stand-up gigs and her two books: “100 Tricks To Appear Smart in Meetings,” published in 2016 and, two years later, “How to be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings.”

But it wasn’t until Cooper was quarantined in her apartment for part of April that she made the YouTube videos that quickly became a cultural juggernaut. (She couldn’t be reached immediately for comment, but described her writing process to both Fallon and DeGeneres.)

Each video begins with the title, “How to...” and range from about 10 seconds to a few minutes. The first video to go viral, “How to medical,” has been viewed nearly 25 million times since it was posted on April 23, Cooper writes on her website.

The videos are snippets taken from the president’s public remarks. Cooper lip-syncs along, exaggerating some of the President’s mannerisms and lampooning others.

Reviewers have commented on the accuracy with which Cooper mimics the president’s facial expressions and gestures. Some videos also include reaction shots from dumbfounded observers at the events (also portrayed by Cooper): medical personnel wearing face masks, notebook-wielding reporters.

The comedy results from the disconnect between hearing Trump’s voice come out of the mouth of young Black woman, and from the way that young Black woman attempts to make sense of what she’s hearing.

Some of the most popular are “How to medical,” which contains some of the President’s statements about fighting the coronavirus pandemic, “How to hydroxychloroquine” about the controversial anti-malaria drug that Trump has touted as a way to prevent becoming infected with COVID-19 and “How to very positively,” in which the President discusses his COVID-19 test results.

At least two videos deal with the recent nationwide protests following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minnesota after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

In “How to bunker,” the President explains why he went down to an underground bunker during protests outside the White House on May 29, while in “How to the black people,” Trump attempts to reassure African Americans that they are welcome to join his campaign, Make America Great Again.

As Cooper explained in an interview last month with the Los Angeles Times:

“Trump is an amazing comedy writer without realizing it.”

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