Seizing on Trump's Political Rise
Back when Donald Trump began to gain some serious momentum as a presidential candidate, readers started asking me if I thought anything good could come from a Trump nomination and possibly a Trump presidency. They continued to ask that question throughout the primary, in part because I've been very critical of Trump in my columns. A lot of people probably sensed that I wouldn't be able to bring myself to vote for the man if the time came, and they were of course right.
Now that Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee, and the reality of the situation has settled in among us #NeverTrump folks (who've been busy researching Gary Johnson and David French), I'm still seeing that question asked — not just of me, but of other right-leaning Trump critics. Thus, I figured it was time to go ahead and address the topic in a column.
This might surprise many of you, but my answer to that question is actually yes. I do, in fact, see one small silver lining in the rise of Trump to the upper echelon of American politics. It just doesn't have anything to do with leadership, policies, or political ideology. It's about the continued success of my friend, John Di Domenico.
You see, John's a professional Donald Trump impersonator. Actually, he's a corporate entertainer and character actor who specializes in celebrity impersonations, but his work as Trump is what has been earning him a great deal of national recognition over the past several months.
Trump's cultural impact on politics has brought John to a pivotal moment in his career, and he's now in high demand all over the country, because there's simply no one better at being Trump (other than the candidate himself, of course). John's impersonation has been molded over several years — starting long before anyone ever viewed Trump as a potential political force — and it shows.
I first caught John's act after I fell asleep watching television one night last summer. My DVR had switched over to Fox News to record Red Eye w/ Tom Shillue, and I was awoken by the sound of a feisty Trump trashing primary opponent, Jeb Bush. Thinking it was a news clip, I was about to turn off the TV. That's when I heard individuals giggling in response to Trump's outrageous statements. Once my eyes focused, I realized that the man on the screen was in fact not Trump, but rather someone made-up to look like him.
I watched the rest of the comical segment and was enamored by how dead-on the impersonation was. The voice was identical the real Trump's, including the dialect and the trademark catchphrases. He had the mannerisms nailed down too, and when he was able to carry on improvised exchanges with each of the the show's guests — exactly as Trump would — I was blown away. His comedic timing was brilliant, and it was clear that he was more than just an entertainer. He was also an artist.
I got in touch with John with the help of Tom Shillue, and I let him know how impressed I was with his work. He was gracious for the recognition, and directed me to his website. There, I enjoyed some video viewings of his other humorous characters and impersonations, including Austin Powers, Jay Leno, Dr. Phil, and Guy Fieri. They were all great, but Trump was still my favorite.
Believing that John's Trump would be a perfect fit for a regular spot on Red Eye (Fox News' comedic late-night show), I (along with some other viewers) applied a bit of Twitter pressure on Shillue to get the talented man back on. It eventually happened (though I don't know if we had anything to do with it), and those bits continue to be some of the show's most entertaining segments.
John and I stayed in touch on Twitter, and I later hired him (as Trump) to do the book trailer for my latest novel, Blood Trade. He knocked it out of the park, and I'm convinced he contributed to the book becoming my publisher's top-selling title of 2015.
Beyond Red Eye, John has appeared regularly as the voice of Trump on Conan O'Brien, and has been profiled on Inside Edition and NBC News, and in various publications. He's been in high demand over the past year, constantly traveling and appearing at a plethora of events all over the country. It's been fun to follow his adventures on social media, and watch him make the best of an unbelievable political situation that has otherwise given me heartburn.
In December, my wife and I met up with John while we were on vacation in Las Vegas (where he lives). Over breakfast, he entertained us with impersonations and told us some fun, fascinating stories about his career and where it has taken him. He's a super nice guy, and I couldn't be happier for his success. Trump winning in November would obviously be even bigger for his career, and should that happen, I predict that you'll all be seeing a lot of John Di Domenico in the future.
John was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to do an interview with me for the website. Enjoy!
How long have you been impersonating Trump?
I've been impersonating Donald Trump for almost 12 years. I started doing his voice at the end of the very first season of The Apprentice. An agent had called on a Friday about a voiceover and she asked if I could do Trump. I ran out, bought the first season of The Apprentice on DVD then watched the entire season that weekend, learned his voice, auditioned on Monday and got the booking.
Have you ever met the real Donald Trump? If so, what does he think of your impersonation of him?
I have met Donald Trump. I performed at his 55th birthday party in Atlantic City. I wasn't impersonating him, I was actually performing as Austin Powers at the event. In fact I jumped out of the cake as Austin Powers and presented Trump with 24 models on stage.
When we spoke in Vegas, you told me that you had researched the origins of Trump's dialect to better understand his speech pattern. What did you find?
Well, I knew he was from Queens and he has a very unusual style of speaking. It's not your typical New York accent in any shape, way or form. I did discover that Christopher Walken is also from Queens and has that unusual staccato style similar to Trump's. Maybe it has something to do with the water in Queens, maybe not.
Have you ever had people, who hold negative feelings toward Donald Trump, take their frustrations out on you?
Overall the response to my Trump impersonation has been extremely positive. There have been some events where people have made a point to come up to me and say "I don't like you, I don't like what you stand for." I also had a Muslim woman come up to me at a corporate event and say that she didn't like Trump. Luckily, at the end of the event she returned to me and said "I like your Trump" she said it was a lot funnier and warmer than the real guy.
What do you think of Jimmy Fallon's Trump impersonation?
Jimmy Fallon is an amazing entertainer and impersonator. I actually think he can do anything. I like what he's done with his Trump impersonation he's really blown it out and gone over the top with it. Very funny.
Who's your favorite celebrity or character to impersonate, besides Trump?
Hands-down it's Austin Powers. That character is beloved around the world and I've had the honor of performing as that character all over the world. I think it has something to do with the fact that he is so positive and so fun, people want to be with the character. And of course he's grooooooovy baby, yeah.
Were there times during the Republican primary when you thought that Trump had said something so offensive that people would stop hiring you because of it?
Actually, early on when he made the comments about John McCain I thought it was over. After that comment it seemed like nothing he said hurt him, it only helped him. From my corporate clients they've asked me not to mention certain things which I have always honored.
Do you think that Trump will win in November?
Judging by the number of people I have met all over the country in the last 10 months of performing Trump in every city in every state, at events with attendance up the 5000, I would say he's going to win in a landslide.
Thanks John. Best of luck.
More on John Di Domenico:
Official Website: http://johnnyd.net/
John Di Domenico on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/didonyc
John on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=110396497724
John on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Johnnyd23