Interview with Cast Member Ted Meredith

Ted Meredith is a veteran Esther’s cast member, and right now is best known for his hilarious Donald Trump impression, which he shares every week for delighted audiences. He teaches improv at The Institution Theater, and has appeared in commercials, web series, and films.  We sat down to talk about what it’s like to play the President every week, honing his impersonation skills, and his approach to comedy. This is an excerpt from our conversation.

Laura: How long have you been performing at Esther’s?

Ted: I think I hit my decade anniversary in July. At my audition process, they had me do a stage reading of Dick Cheney and John Edwards selling Kerry and Bush like they were used cars, and Cheney’s referring to Bush as this big SUV Hummer something and John Edwards selling a Prius/Hybrid. And they said, ‘Well, we’re not sure which one we want you to read’, and I said, ‘Both. I’ll read both.’

So not having ever read it, and not having ever thought about doing a John Edwards or Dick Cheney impression, I immediately launch in and go back and forth between the two of them. That I think was what stuck me in, which is interesting because I don’t consider myself an impressionist.

Laura: When did you start impersonating Trump?  

Ted: The first time was actually during the Birther stuff, around 2012, 2013. That was the first time that Trump and politics were a big story because he was thinking of running for the Presidency.

Laura: How did you start to approach your impersonation of Trump? If you watch the news, is it hard to not always be studying him?

Ted: Yeah, because I’m sort of the political junkie of the writer’s room, so it’s not uncommon for me to watch 3- 4 hours of news a day. One thing that I discovered with playing Bill Clinton is that it’s more important what the character thinks they’re doing than who you think the character is.

So, {impersonating Bill Clinton} anybody can do a raspy voice and bite their lip and put their thumb out, but my Bill Clinton thinks he’s Matthew McConaughey. For Trump, it started with a bad Frank Sinatra impression, like, Donald Trump thinks he’s Frank Sinatra. He thinks he’s Mr. New York, a super smooth crooner from back when thingswere good. So then the character comes out of how he doesn’t live up to his own image of himself.

Laura: What do you think audiences at Esther’s appreciate most about the political satire comedy?

Ted: My overarching goal is; I don’t want anybody to feel bad about what they believe in. I like pointing out things but I don’t like attacking people. When you lean into what satire truly is, which is presenting your opposition or even the people you do agree with, in a way where you just layer on what they think and what they believe to an extreme.

You take a gently sloping character arc, and you just spike it, like Guy Fieri’s hair.  It’s the suspension of disbelief, and the audience wants to like the performer up there. The audience thinks, ‘Deep down, they agree with me.’

Laura: Do you ever feel challenged by the fact that Trump is such a huge character, that it’s hard to find the comedy?

Ted: Yeah, I often say for satire to really work, you have to out-trump Trump. And that’s really impossible. It’s almost impossible to say something that sounds like something he wouldn’t say. At the same time, even if you could find that, it wouldn’t be far enough away from the truth that it feels like satire. We’ve found little whispers of it here and there.

Like, I have a line where I say, “Forget the wall, we’re gonna build a waterslide along the Mexican border. It’s time we Schlitterbahn their asses back to Guadalajara.” And that works, because it’s obviously silly, but more extreme than what’s he’s proposing, slightly, and has the word Schlitterbahn, which is hilarious.

Laura: (Laughter) And you have to find new material every week.

Ted: Yeah, just like the press is having a hard time figuring out what story to chase, we don’t really know what, if anything, is going to stick. Which is why I tend to navel gaze and try to think of the deeper, bigger picture, like ‘Who is Donald Trump?’, rather than ‘What is Donald Trump doing and saying this week.’

Laura: That’s why you’re the best.

Ted: Well… the best that we have I guess.

(LAUGHTER)

To catch the best Trump Impersonator in the State of Texas, get your tickets HERE, and follow Ted on Twitter @Tedgar3

 

About the Author:

Laura Mathis is a past Esther’s Follies performer who graced the stage from 2003- 2006 with her Canadian charms and willingness to wear any type of costume to get a laugh. Follow Laura on Twitter @thelauramathis