How do you turn a handful of lip-sync videos on TikTok into a Netflix special? That’s the challenge faced by US comic Sarah Cooper, who made her name this year miming online to the words of Donald Trump. The trick drew tighter focus on just how weird the president’s speech (and his ideas) can be, with only the subtlest of send-ups required from Cooper – a changed context here, a glimpse of fleeting hysteria behind the eyes there.
The hysteria is ratcheted up in Everything’s Fine, a faux morning news broadcast spliced with a psycho-absurdist trepan into the overheated mind of 2020 America. It torpedoes any concerns that Cooper might be merely a lip-sync novelty – although the lip-syncing does feature, notably in the scorching scene that brings Trump’s “pussy-grabbing” dialogue to gender-bending life. Helen Mirren, of all people, co-stars, as Trump’s wingman Billy Bush, among a hatful of glitzy stars that includes Ben Stiller as a robot CEO, Whoopi Goldberg and Marisa Tomei as Satan.
Satan, you say? Yup, this is no ordinary newscast. For a while, it might be: it’s comedy first-base to send up the dorky content and Day-Glo smiles of daytime TV, as Cooper seems to be doing. But soon there’s more going on, from the news-will-eat-itself item reporting on (and interacting with) Trump’s tweets in real-time, to the Get Out sketch imagining Mar-a-Lago’s only black clientele.
Cooper’s gaze isn’t confined to politics: there’s a droll sketch of a close-up magician struggling to entertain her Covid-safe drive-in audience. But the sinister keeps encroaching. On the shopping channel run by conspiracy nuts QAnon, you can bid now for a porcelain Ivanka Trump doll with Cooper’s panicky face superimposed. “If being complicit,” it intones, “is wanting to be a force for good and make a positive impact, then I’m complicit”.
It’s a fever dream, then, of this tumultuous American moment, a vortex of murder hornets, racist cupcakes and gassed protestors into which Cooper and her vacuous bulletin finally collapse. Truly the anchor’s away – further and further away – in this often funny, always striking document of what living feels like in this fraught and febrile year.