We’re living through a troubling time. A sad, frightening one, in fact. Along with enduring constant fears about COVID-19, the flow of confusion and misinformation is unrelenting.
In the midst of it all, comedian and author Sarah Cooper, found the humor by way of a 49-second TikTok video she created and titled, “How to Medical.” To date, the clip—which parodies President Trump, in his voice—has garnered nearly 15 million views across social media.
For those not glued to the news, here’s a quick rewind…
As his state is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., New York Governor Andrew Cuomo addresses the nation each day with facts, stats and the calm assuredness of an effective leader. Hours later, Trump appears on-screen and does the exact opposite. Then, last Thursday, the President dipped to a new low, suggesting that the use of disinfectants and/or ultraviolet light could serve as treatment for the deadly virus.
“I’d been watching pretty regularly,” Cooper says of the daily briefings, “but I stopped because at a certain point I can’t talk or think about Trump.”
Though she didn’t tune in live last Thursday, the New York City–based comic was later stunned by the clips she viewed on Twitter. “When I saw the part about ‘ultraviolet light hitting the body, through the skin…or some other way,’ it was just so visual to me. I thought, How would the light enter your body…up your butt? When he talked about injecting disinfectants, I was like, What?” So she slipped on a blazer, grabbed the sound bite and hit record. By 8:30 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, the clip was up on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram and went viral immediately.
“If a White guy in a suit [is speaking] and people are nodding around him, it’s like we’ve been trained to think, Well, I guess it sounds like it could be true,” she says. “If you see anybody else, especially me, saying [the same words], I think it highlights just how ridiculous it is.” Still, she understands there’s a double-edged sword. “When making a parody of something, you’re still perpetuating it, you know? I’ve shared his message even farther and wider, but I’m hoping that the people who didn’t see the press briefing will now know how crazy he sounded.”
Last Friday, after an abbreviated appearance at the podium, Trump took to Twitter to express his feelings about continuing with the daily briefings. “He said that he doesn’t know if he wants to do them anymore, so I’m going to take some credit for that,” Cooper says with a laugh. She even tweeted her sentiments. “Someone responded that I needed to keep making the videos until he doesn’t want to be President anymore!”
Along with spewing dangerous rhetoric related to COVID-19, Trump—who blocked Cooper on Twitter in 2017 after her response to him about Fake News went viral—has continued to disparage immigrants. Perhaps that’s why it’s rather ironic that the comic, whose family journeyed from Jamaica to the States in 1980, would so fearlessly take him on. “His treatment of immigrants has been atrocious, so as an immigrant and a Black woman, I think it’s appropriate,” she says. “I have sisters with disabilities and one of them works as nurse, so she’s exposed to COVID. He’s affecting everyone’s lives.”
She’s also used her platform to bring more attention to Skylar Herbert of Detroit, the 5-year-old daughter of two first responders who succumbed to the virus last Monday. “When I found out about Skylar, I spent all day crying,” Cooper says.
A day after posting the “How to Medical” video, she replied to her own Tweet with a story about (and a request in honor of) the young girl: Wow, this blew up. Please consider donating to the #SkylarHerbert Memorial Fund. “I’ve had several people write to me and say that they donated after seeing the video and my comment. It’s such a sad story and if I am able to help in some way by making something that was funny, then it was the right thing to do.”