Donald Trump debated Bernie Sanders! (as Anthony Atamanuik and James Adomian at UCB’s Whiplash)

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former U.S. Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton will face off tonight in their first official debate for the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nomination (along with candidates Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chaffee), broadcast live on CNN.

But for a half-hour late last night, unsuspecting comedy fans at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City were treated to an “interleague play” mock debate pitting Sanders against Republican “billionaire” Donald J. Trump, and moderated by New York Times columnist Mark Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer joked that the debate was the NYT’s way to keep hip to young voters.

What the audience at Monday night’s Whiplash saw, however, was a masterclass in absurdist impersonation as James Adomian (as Sanders) often found himself reduced to gibberish and Inception-level statistics as his populism went up against Anthony Atamanuik‘s (as Trump) ultimate “1 percenter” hyperbole and cocksureness.

“The two of you talk a good game,” Oppenheimer said.

Among the highlights (a film crew did shoot the debate, so I’ll certainly update this with video when it becomes available):


As Trump, Atamanuik suggested using a “Duane Reade points system” to determine your racial status, with a million points guaranteeing your whiteness. “I’m killing everyone in the polls, and I promise you, when I’m elected president, I will kill everyone.”

Questioned about his relationships, Adomian as Sanders observed: “I have a longstanding marriage to a woman who I think her name is Jane.”

“I’ve been there. I’ve been there!” Trump quickly replied.

Trump later alluded to naming his daughter Ivanka to express his sexual desire toward her, and claimed: “My family does not have a loser among them. And if we did we would drown them in a sack in the Hudson River.”

Which prompted this alternative option from Sanders to dispose of his competition: “Trumps should be like abortions. Safe, legal and rare.”

On taking vacations: Sanders joked that he and his family “reenact the passage of the Social Security Act by the Roosevelt Administration,” whereas at Trump’s house, “We reenact the euthanization of Eleanor Roosevelt!”

On immigration: Trump vowed, “I promise to buy a garbage island and put our immigrants there.”

On Hillary Clinton: “I happen to disagree with her 90 percent of the 80 percent of the time,” Sanders said. On the other hand, he added: “I don’t believe in negative campaigning which happens to open me up to vicious attacks.” Still, this Sanders knew he had another debate to prep for tonight with her. “So I’m going to go home and gargle some milk…duds.”

After the debate, Whiplash resumed its regularly scheduled stand-up comedy showcase.

Which left comedian Mike Lawrence to grab the microphone next, and say how he wishes we see the real Sanders and real Trump debate for real. “It’s the closest we’ll get to seeing two wizards cast spells at each other,” Lawrence joked.

Either way, it was pretty magical.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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