Trump impersonator makes big impact on local TV show
A man with badly styled dyed blond hair and an unnaturally tanned face is attracting stares in a Wellington pub on a Wednesday night. Dressed in a navy suit with a white shirt and red tie, he has an air of familiarity about him.
That's because the man in question is Donald Trump. Well sort of. Actor and stand-up comic Alexander Sparrow is a Trump impersonator who is at The Backbencher to take part in the filming of TV show Back Benches.
Sparrow, 24, has been performing his one-man comedy show about the US President around New Zealand and was even selected to attend a competition for Trump impersonators in Los Angeles.
"There were 10 of us and it was weird," says Sparrow. "Everybody has their own angle. A lot of them were quite corporate and safe. "I think my angle, because I do full-hour shows, they are almost like plays. I can tell more of a story so I get a lot more ruthless.
"I make jokes about Trump's relationship, his family and friends, trying to keep it topical but my angle means I don't have to rewrite it every two days."
Sparrow, a Wellington native, reckons his favourite saying from the US President is "You're very lucky to have me".
The actor has watched hours of video footage of Trump and has also read the US President's books.
To achieve the 'Trump look', Sparrow dusts his face with bronzer, applies concealer around his eyes and sprays "a lot" of hairspray on his dyed tresses. Tonight is Sparrow's second appearance on Back Benches as Trump.
Hosted by Wallace Chapman and Charlotte Ryan, the show, supported by NZ On Air, is a mixture of fun and seriousness with guest politicians discussing topical issues.
Caricature politician puppets, such as New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, adorn the establishment's walls and the kitchen serves up food from a menu with dishes such as G. Brownlee's pate, P. Bennett's salmon salad and J. Adern's fresh fish creation.
Those in the pub tonight include a man wearing sunglasses and a Dr Seuss-inspired hat while holding a pro-cannabis sign. A woman in a leopard-print skin coat and matching footwear is handing out flyers about a theatre show called Destination Beehive: 2017. She gives me three.
Politicians making up tonight's panel on Back Benches are Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox, Labour MP David Clark, National MP Sarah Dowie and New Zealand First co-leader Ron Mark.
After Chapman introduces the panel to the punters, the atmosphere turns lively. Fox happily shows a cardboard patu-shaped item with Maori Party branding.
"Pretty interesting that she's chosen to bring her own fan because there won't be any others here," barks a punter standing nearby.
Up for discussion tonight are topics such as safety in the workplace, the problem of plastic bags and the idea of a sugar tax.
Earlier in the day Charlotte Ryan pounded Wellington's Cuba Street with Sparrow dressed as Trump. He asked random strangers for their opinions about a sugar tax.
"When I went with him on the street today, it was the general public who might not necessarily come here to the pub and they loved him," says Ryan.
"There were so many selfies. He was interviewing people and there were crowds watching him. It was hilarious."
A video clip of Sparrow's interviews appears on big TV screens around the pub.
Sparrow's Trump chats with Chapman. The comedian cheekily refers to a shaven-head David Clark as 'corporate Moby' which draws a big laugh from the crowd.
The final part of the evening involves a quiz in which Chapman asks the panellists a series of quirky questions including 'What colour is the sand in Bermuda?' and 'How old are The Harry Potter books?'.
When he asks, "According to Winston where are the zombies?", Fox doesn't hesitate and shouts, "In his caucus".
Once the cameras stop rolling, some punters are keen on selfies but not with the local politicians. Instead they want photographs with Sparrow as Trump.
It seems they are very lucky to have him.
Back Benches, Prime, Wednesday, 9.35pm.
- TV Guide