You might find this hard to believe, internet sensation that she is, but this time last year Sarah Cooper was a struggling 43-year-old standup with a handful of followers, happy to get booked into a pizza place … and just about ready to wave the white flag.
"Had you given up at all on the idea that you could break through?" asked correspondent Jim Axelrod.
"I kinda had," she said.
Then, the president threw her career a lifeline (unintentionally, of course):
Suddenly, Cooper lip-syncing Donald Trump – stripping away everything but his words – was the hottest thing going.
"What my videos did was take all that away and say, 'Listen to what he's saying. Listen to what he's not saying, 'cause really, he's not saying anything,'" said Cooper.
Born in Jamaica and raised in Maryland, Cooper always had the entertainment bug. But in her twenties she chose security over the dream – working for Yahoo and Google – and doing comedy on the side.
Still, tech gave her just what she needed: material.
"I noticed in meetings, there was a lot of imitation going on," she said. "You saw someone get up and pace around the room, so maybe in the next meeting, you'd get up and pace around the room."
"Somebody slamming their hand down on a desk, looking at everybody, and saying, 'Will it scale?'" suggested Axelrod.
"Right!" she laughed. "That's very dramatic, but yeah."
So, watching President Trump in a new conference last April …
"So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous – whether it's ultraviolet or just very powerful light – and I think you said that hasn't been checked, but you're going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you're going to test that, too. It sounds interesting. … "
Cooper said, "When he was just like, 'You said we haven't checked that? We're gonna try it, right?' I saw the other person in the room going, What? What are you talking about?"
She knew she'd found just what she needed, and who.
Axelrod asked, "Is there a relationship between these tech bros you're seeing dropping the right phrase and President Trump?"
"Oh God, yes. We see the suit and we see the seal and we see people nodding that we think, 'Oh, he must be making sense. He must be making sense, because why would all these people be listening and laughing and clapping and agreeing with him?'"
She did her video "How to Medical" in two hours, working as basic as it gets, filming with her smartphone. Sarah Cooper, after 20 years of trying, was an overnight success. "And the next morning it had like a million views or something," she said.
Next thing she knew, Jerry Seinfeld was retweeting her; Cher was calling her Oscar-worthy; and Kamala Harris wanted to talk to her.
But as Mr. Trump leaves office, don't think for a moment Sarah Cooper is the least bit conflicted. Axelrod asked, "Does a little bit want to see him stick around, just because he's good for business?"
"No, no," she replied. "I think I found a way to lampoon him that was different and interesting. But I think we're done. We're not gonna see any more. And I feel like I kind of have to use it as a propellant, but I also have to escape it, in a way. Like, I don't want to be known as 'The Lip-Synching Girl.'"
As good as old-school presidential impersonators were, likeand , Sarah Cooper is Next Generation.
"You're not Rich Little. You're not Vaughn Meader …" said Axelrod.
"Who are these people?" she asked.
"You're making me feel 1,000 years old!"
Cooper laughed, "I'm sorry!"
As she now inaugurates the next stage of her career. she does admit to some anxiety: "What if that was it, you know what I mean? What if that was my 15 minutes? Like, what if I'll never be able to do anything as incredible as that again?"
But a recent Netflix special, with guests like Helen Mirren, and a series in development with CBS, mean Cooper is in a much different place this January than last.
Axelrod asked, "If we're sitting on this bench in five years, what do you feel like we're gonna be talking about?"
"I would like to make the next 'Seinfeld," she replied. "I would like to make the next 'Office.' I would love to do a show that's really very much in my voice."
Her voice … not his. Axelrod asked, "Do you feel like you're having to pull the mask off, 'Here's who I am'?"
"I definitely wanted to," Cooper said. "I would like to get to that point where I really just truly feel like myself."
For more info:
- Sarah Cooper official site
- Follow Sarah Cooper on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube
- "Sarah Cooper: Everything's Fine" (Netflix)
Story produced by Gabriel Falcon. Editor: Lauren Barnello.