As the U.S. grapples with losses from the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest, comedian Sarah Cooper is taking on these difficult topics in her work.
During quarantine, Cooper started posting videos of herself lip-syncing to clips of President Trump speaking on Tik Tok and Twitter. She says Trump’s daily briefings reminded her of men in suits throwing around buzzwords during corporate meetings.
But the president benefits from staff standing behind him in support and reporters jotting down his every word. Cooper wanted to take that away and show what it would look like if a black woman spoke like Trump in a meeting.
“As a black woman who's been in these situations, I was like, ‘I want to be able to do that,’ ” says Cooper, a former Google employee. “I want to be able to b.s. my way through life the way the president has b.s.ed his way through this administration.”
The “tumultuous relationship” between Cooper and the president isn’t brand new: Trump blocked her on Twitter three years ago. Using Trump to grow her platform feels like “poetic justice,” she says.
For Cooper, creating content helps her cope with anxiety, uncertainty and hopelessness. While she never thought her videos could help people, her fans say otherwise.
People tell Cooper her lip syncs are the only thing making them laugh during difficult times, she says.
“When I get messages like that, I realize humor is important. Laughing is important. It's healing,” she says. “And so as hard as everything is right now, I do think that there is something to be said for making things that people can have some release with.”
On turning her blogs posts about how to seem smart at meetings into a book, “100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings: How to Get By Without Even Trying”
“One of my favorite tips is to translate percentages into fractions. So if someone says 25% of people clicked on this button, you just respond with, ‘Oh, about one in four. Mm-hmm.’ And people will be so impressed with your extremely quick math skills. Another great one is just to ask, will this scale? No matter what it is, just ask if it's gonna scale because scaling is very important and no one even really knows what that means.
“And another great one, which is you don't even have to say anything, is just to get up from the conference room table and start pacing around the room. I remember being in a meeting and a [vice president] got up, started pacing around the room and then asked the presenter to go back one slide, which is another one of the tricks. And he did both of those things at the same time. And then he looked over at me and he winked. And so that's proof to me that that's how you become a VP at Google. You just pace, ask the presenter to go back a slide, make fun of yourself, draw up a Venn diagram, translate percents into fractions and you will immediately make everyone in the room think that you are leadership material.”
On her effort to avoid mimicking Trump’s facial expressions in the videos
“That's one thing I'm specifically not trying to do because he doesn't actually emote with his face a lot. What I'm doing is I'm saying, ‘What if me, Sarah Cooper, said these words?’ And I'm sort of speaking to the subtext of what he's saying. So when he is obviously out of his element, I am making a face like I'm confused or I'm reaching or I'm stretching or I'm grasping for a word. I'm very specifically not doing what he's doing, but doing what a normal human being would be doing if they were saying these words.”
“It's funny because I had a life coach very briefly a few years ago, and one of the things we did was write a personal mantra, the thing that we want to get across with our work. And the thing that I wrote for myself was to pull back the mask and show that a lot of us really don't know what we're doing. I mean, me included. Do you see people doing things on social media and you think, ‘Oh, they're successful? I'll do that same thing. I'll post that same picture. I'll write that same caption.’ And it's so empty and so that's why we're sort of starved for authenticity, because a lot of us are just playing parts.”
On her popular video “How to medical”
“When I was doing this, I was thinking, ‘I'm being really smart right now. I'm saying the smartest possible thing that I think I can possibly say right now,’ which is, I think, what Trump was thinking when he was saying it. He thought he was changing the game with his ideas of putting ultraviolet light underneath the skin. Taking that idea of brilliance and then juxtaposing it with me — being underneath my kitchen sink, pulling out the cleaner, putting it on my arm, injecting it into my arm — I really think this is smart, but it's so obviously stupid.”
This segment aired on June 8, 2020.