Comedian and Melania Trump impersonator Lauren LoGiudice has spent countless hours studying the first lady in order to portray her online and onstage. “I read all the books, I have her on Google alert, I studied her accent,” LoGiudice says. “I know everything that’s going on with her.” She even uses an acting technique called “Lucid Body,” which, through exploration of the body’s seven chakras, allows her to access any thoughts the first lady may be hiding. (LoGiudice got to know her so well, she wrote a book about it.) She says playing Melania is “like a loaded gun: You’re coming onstage and it’s already tense. You’ve gotta be ready for it.”
The extensive prep work was supposed to be in service of the stage show she cowrote with fellow comedian Jesse Sneddon, “The Melania Trump Road Show.” The duo were meant to kick off a 31-date national tour on March 14 at The Tank in New York City. Instead, they’ve been forced to take things online by COVID-19. In lieu of a planned stop at Wilmington’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Cucalorus will host LoGiudice and Sneddon for a free livestream version of the show Friday, May 29 at 5 p.m. on Zoom.
“The Melania Trump Road Show” is a satirical mix of standup comedy, sketches, videos and burlesque. (The acclaimed burlesque performer Ula Uberbusen, who plays Melania’s fictional press secretary, may be unavailable for the Wilmington livestream.) Sneddon conceived of it as a ’70s-style variety show in the vein of “The Carol Burnett Show” or “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour,” with the laughs coming from the first lady’s apparent disdain for her role. (The show’s tagline: “Get Out the Vote and Get Me Out of this White House of Garbage!”)
“Her whole life was supposed to be sitting in a penthouse with everything she needs, and now she has to do all this shit she doesn’t want to do, which is sort of the angle that the show takes,” Sneddon says. “The reason she’s out there trying to get people to vote against her husband is not because she thinks he’s a bad president, it’s because she doesn’t want to do this stuff anymore.”
Sneddon begins each day by waking at 6 a.m. and combing through the president and first lady’s tweets and videos for usable material. At 9 a.m. he and LoGiudice meet over Zoom to talk strategy. “It usually takes about an hour to write a couple of bits that are like 10-30 seconds long,” he says. LoGiudice films the bits to put online, after which Sneddon suits up to film his own videos as Melania’s fictional secret-service agent, Johnson Smith (@djdogre on Instagram).
Since their tour was put on hold, the duo have posted over 100 videos to YouTube and Instagram. The clips range from the practical (“How to put on a corona mask”) to the confessional (“Melania has an existential crisis”) to the downright absurd (“Mike Pence cures bird flu”), often focusing on Melania’s attempts to explain away her husband’s gaffes.
LoGiudice and Sneddon also sell merch to support the show, including Trump Off soap—guaranteed to promote “soft skin and democracy.”
LoGiudice was initially reluctant when a comedy booker in Philadelphia suggested she impersonate the first lady. “I thought, This is the last person I want in my head,” she recalls. She eventually relented when she realized the White House was using Melania to soften the president’s image. “They gaslight us on a regular basis by shifting our perception of who he is through her,” LoGiudice says. “I’ve made it my mission to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
The comedian also was inspired by what she saw as lazy or reckless existing impersonations of Melania. “I’ve felt that all the portrayals of her were making her out to be the dope, and I was like, ‘No, no, no, that lets her off the hook! That makes us believe her and trust her. This cannot be where people stand on this.’”
Both LoGiudice and Sneddon admit it’s been difficult finding a virtual home for their show. They initially reached out to the venues where they were scheduled to perform, but found many unable to support a move online. Says Sneddon, “Some places are pretty small to begin with and don’t have the infrastructure to try to do something like this.” With the exception of Friday’s show with Cucalorus and another hosted by Curve Magazine in March, they’ve yet to come close to performing the show as written.
Still, the pair continue to reach out to venues and remain optimistic about resuming their tour in August. They also foresee new ways to integrate the communities they visit into their show. In one segment, Melania and Johnson Smith interview an audience member who comes onstage to talk about a cause they represent. Then, in a hilarious turn, Melania completely misrepresents how her husband is helping or hurting that cause.
“Before we were thinking, OK, voter suppression? People running for office?” says LoGiudice. “Now, we’re like, Which local businesses can we help?”
Folks can register for the May 29 Zoom show by visiting the Cucalorus Facebook page and filling out a brief form via the provided link. LoGiudice also encourages viewers to send questions for Melania via Instagram (@flotusofficial), as there will be a Q&A at the end of the show.