David Carl does a mean Donald Trump impression. In the dressing room of a small Manhattan theatre, he puckers his lips, narrows his eyes and, in an unmistakable husky voice, asks me: “How does it feel to be in my company?"
A generous application of bright orange face paint and a dishevelled blonde wig complete the look. It’s unnerving.
David is no admirer of his president. In the 12 months since Trump’s election, he says dangerous divisions have spread across America.
But he hopes his act can provide at least a small opportunity for healing.
His play, Trump Lear, is a sharp, merciless, biting satire. It casts David as an actor held captive by Trump because he dared to mock him onstage.
The President is portrayed as a sinister, humourless psychopath, but the laughs come hard and fast and the audience adore it.
“Comedy can provide a valve,” David Tells me. “It allows people to come together and laugh at an absurd situation. Laughter releases pressure and, perhaps, that will encourage people to re-examine their differences.”
It’s a nice thought, but desperately optimistic. David’s play provides a perfect example of the fractured country America has become.
It’s selling out in Manhattan, but elsewhere in the country it’s been shunned. Theatres which have welcomed David’s company in the past are refusing to run it, for fear that pro-Trump donors will withdraw their funding.
“I understand that people are free to put their money where their politics are”, says the play’s director, Michole Biancosino, “but it’s kind of terrifying that even theatre is being affected like this”.
That’s life in Trump’s America. Some see the President as a clown, others as a saviour, but everyone seems to have an opinion and the divisions grow deeper every day.
The comedians and satirists still find plenty to joke about. But behind the laughter, anger is never far away.
On Assignment presenter Rageh Omaar and Correspondent Martin Geissler discuss the first episode of the new series:
- On Assignment returns for a brandnew series on Tuesday November 7 at 10.40pm on ITV