When Mario Cantone spent his days peddling chocolate truffles to passersby on the fifth floor of Trump Tower, offering his best Katherine Hepburn impersonation in the process, he never knew the man who owned the gold-plated eyesore would one day be president—or that he’d play a role in ridiculing a prominent member of The Donald’s administration.
But here we are.
“This is all so crazy,” says Cantone. “In 1983, when I first moved to New York, I sold chocolate truffles at the Trump Tower. I sold them on the fifth floor of Trump Tower and used to do impressions of people as I sold them. And then I worked there for a man named David Saity, who was a jeweler, and sold jewelry there, too. I did that for a year and then quit to do comedy full-time. So that was my one and only job in New York City, was working at the Trump Tower.”
Last night, Cantone, a gifted stand-up comedian most famous for his turn as wedding planner Anthony Marentino on Sex and the City, unleashed a hilariously spot-on impression of Anthony Scaramucci on The President Show. He cursed. He waved his hands. He kissed the boss’s ass. “There’s an old Italian expression my mother used to use when somebody hurt her. She’d say, ‘Stick the umbrella up my ass, but don’t open it!’” he exclaimed.
He was brilliant. And the reviews this morning reflected that.
“It’s nice to play a heterosexual for once. I’ve been doing it for years in my living room. I just said I was gay to sabotage my career,” jokes the openly-gay Cantone, before getting serious: “To wake up to all the articles saying it was good has been so thrilling. It was emotional because it’s been a while for me, and I’m very grateful and lucky that Anthony Scaramucci came along.”
As Cantone, 57, remembers it, he was lying in bed depressed one morning when his Twitter mentions began lighting up. One person after another was tweeting at Cantone about his likeness to Scaramucci, who’d just been hired as the new director of White House communications. While the funnyman doesn’t use Twitter all that much—“I kind of leave it there like an abandoned amusement park,” he says—Cantone retweeted a few of the comments, and soon thereafter received a call from Anthony Atamanuik to play “The Mooch” opposite his Trump on Comedy Central’s The President Show.
Interestingly enough, not only has Cantone been friends with Atamanuik for quite some time, but Atamanuik’s mother was his dance instructor at Emerson College. In addition, it was CNN anchor Chris Cuomo—a fellow Italian, natch—who immediately rang up Cantone when the comparisons started being passed around on Twitter.
“He’s been my buddy for years, and called me up when this whole idea went viral about me playing [Scaramucci],” says Cantone.
Cuomo then reached out again a few days ago—before The Mooch’s expletive-laced tirade to The New Yorker dropped—supplying tips for how Cantone could nail his impersonation of Scaramucci, including watching his interviews with the former Goldman Sachs banker on his CNN early-morning show New Day.
“Chris Cuomo has been telling me the last few days, ‘Watch my show and look at the interview! And look at the phone interview!’ so much that I’ve been calling him Stella Adler. Thank you, my acting coach!” cracks Cantone. “I was watching [the Scaramucci interview], and it’s just exhausting. It’s really like being with my family—as much as I love them. The repetitiveness is just, like, ‘Okay! I get the point!’”
He continues, “I have a lot of Italian relatives like that who sound the same and repeat themselves a lot, talk with the hands, use the expressions…”
In the wake of his celebrated take on The Mooch, Cantone has been receiving calls (and texts, and tweets) from friends and fans about how he should play Scaramucci on Saturday Night Live when the sketch-comedy show returns in the fall.
“I had to strike while the iron’s hot. He might be gone by October!” exclaims Cantone. “But I would love to do it on SNL. It would be an honor. I watch it every week. But I’m not an idiot—I know how this business works. They have a troupe of players who are magnificent and could do it in a heartbeat, so why should they come get me? I don’t have the fame of a Melissa McCarthy, and Lorne Michaels does what he wants to do, so I’m not expecting that at all.”
Cantone says that he’s found the news of President Trump’s proposed plan to ban transgender people from the military “very upsetting,” adding, “It’s a law now. You can’t just tweet a change in the law. He better just leave the LGBT community alone.”
When I bring up Donald Trump’s infamous cameo on Cantone’s HBO show Sex and the City, in a scene that involved Kim Cattrall’s Samantha Jones shooting flirtatious glances at the real estate baron, he emits an audible sigh.
“I know Kim Cattrall and she never would have hit on him in real life,” he says. “That you can be sure of.”