Why MAGA-Mocking Comedian Blaire Erskine Makes Liberals So Mad
Comedian Blaire Erskine tells The Last Laugh podcast how she has managed to fool Twitter into thinking she’s everyone from Ted Cruz’s spox to Marjorie Taylor Greene’s daughter.
Last Thursday morning, about one hour after news outlets started to confirm that Senator Ted Cruz had, in fact, left his freezing Texas constituents behind for an impromptu family getaway at the Ritz Carlton in Cancun, Blaire Erskine posted a 52-second video on Twitter along with the caption: “Statement from Director of Communications for Sen. Ted Cruz.”
“Senator Cruz deserves to relax, unwind, unplug, recharge, you know, like you would a power outlet,” she says with a Southern twang in the clip, which has since been viewed nearly three million times. “Or his power grid’s going to go out, and we can’t be having that.”
Erskine, our guest on this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast, is a comedian whose Twitter bio reads “it’s a joke i repeat it’s a joke” and yet the Ted Cruz video, like the dozens she has posted over the past year while quarantining at home in Atlanta, managed to at least temporarily fool several people who came across it.
“I had a minute of confusion over this,” Succession star J. Smith-Cameron wrote in response. “Anyway, she’s just brilliant.”
Even more confused was New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly, who replied, “incredibly tone deaf.”
Of course, even Erskine could not have predicted that Cruz would go on to blame his own daughters for the Cancun scandal.
The blurred line between parody and reality has become a hallmark of her nuanced videos, in which she has portrayed everyone from the wife of a man who felt “threatened” in Costco to a woman left out in the cold after a Trump rally in Omaha to her fellow Georgian Marjorie Taylor Greene’s deluded daughter. In each case, she is simultaneously over-the-top in her absurdity and just believable enough to pass as real in our overly absurd world.
Like another previously unknown comedian who broke through online by mocking MAGA-world over the past year, Erskine—who was working at what she describes as a “clickbaity sort of like chum box website” as recently as last summer—is well aware that the convergence of Trump and COVID-19 has been instrumental in helping her become internet famous. And when I casually mention that there have been pros and cons of the year-long pandemic that has kept most of the country inside and online, she admits, “It feels like all pros for me, I hate saying that.”
Now, the challenge is turning her online success into something that can actually pay the bills once the world restarts in earnest. “Just because you go viral or people think you’re very funny does not mean you’re a shoo-in for any jobs,” she says she learned fairly quickly, though she did get an agent and manager out of it.
“I have this one character that I can do,” Erskine adds. “And so I do need to expand on that. I need to sharpen my skill set, I would say, if I want to be an actress, which I do. But I just kind of want to be able to be myself a little bit. I want people to want to read and watch what I write in the future. So I think the character I’m working on is myself. Does that sound profound?”
Below is an excerpt from our conversation and you can listen to the whole thing—including how she inspired Sarah Cooper to branch out beyond her Trump lip-synch videos, her personal experience with MyPillow, and a lot more—right now by subscribing to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
I want to start at the beginning with your story and how you started making these very simple videos that have really taken off during this past year. What was the first one that you did where you thought, “Oh, maybe I have something here?”
So I started making them in March and obviously I didn’t have the following I have now. So only my friends were watching them. And I would just sort of do what I’m doing now, just with people in the news. But in July, this guy, Dan Maples is his name, he was the guy in Costco who said he felt “threatened,” you know? And so I got off work that day and I was just exhausted. And I saw that he was trending and I googled to see if he had a wife and he didn’t seem to. And I was like, I’ll just pretend to be his wife and throw this out there. And I thought maybe 30 people would see it and I put my phone down and I got kind of tipsy. And I looked at my phone and it had just blown up. And ever since then, I’ve just been competing with myself to try to outdo it.
Do you think it just kind of naturally went viral that first time or did it have to do with certain people retweeting it?
I think it got to [Daily Beast columnist and Lincoln Project co-founder] Rick Wilson somehow and then it just exploded on “resistance” Twitter, as they call it. Because people thought I was his wife. If it had been an obvious, this is a skit I’m doing, it wouldn’t have gone viral.
That’s the thing that I’ve found really fascinating about your work is that it rides this really fine line between being very funny as comedy, but then there have been all these people who really seem to be confused and think that it’s real. So it’s kind of close enough to something that could be real—just because the world is so insane—that it kind of makes sense. Was the intention to say, I’m going to try to fool people with this?
I guess that was the intention. But again, I didn’t know so many people would see it. So obviously my friends knew I wasn’t that guy’s wife. I thought it was funny. And I guess I can see where people think I’m actually the people I am saying that I am, but I think those are the people who just maybe read the headlines of articles and get mad about it. And they sent you an angry email. And with my videos, I feel like they hear my voice and I’m talking like this [in exaggerated Southern accent] and they’re like, “Oh, she’s an idiot.” And then they tell me to go die.
And you’ve said you actually get more hate from the left than you do from the right, because you’re playing these MAGA right-wing people, right?
Yeah, I would say 90 percent. I do get some from the right when they figure it out and they’re like, “Oh, you think you’re funny? You’re not!” Or “Delete your account, sweetie!” But yeah, most of it is from the left and it hurts! I didn’t mean for this to be a social experiment. Guys, we have to be smarter than this. This is how we got here, come on!
So you talked about how the wife of the Costco guy was the first time that you thought about doing these characters who are fictional characters adjacent to real-life people. Was that an innovation that you then latched onto and said, this is where this could go in terms of identifying these characters that are sort of next to people that we know?
Yeah, it just seemed like the logical thing to do, because I knew I wanted to keep making content. When you go viral like that, I feel like your first instinct is to capitalize on it and make something else that’s really fun. And people seem to like that. And for a while I was very formulaic about it. I was really limiting myself at first. Like, I’ve got to be a wife or a daughter and this person has to exist and I have to maybe kind of look like them. But no, it’s just fun to put yourself in the shoes of a person that might exist. And these Republican men, they never let their wives talk.
They could all look like you, for all we know!
I mean, Tom Cotton’s wife kind of does. In that she’s white. We’re very similar. And she does not talk. I looked up every Tom Cotton video that I could find online when I was making the Tom Cotton’s wife video and she never says a word. And I was like, well, I guess I’m her! I’ll be your spokesperson. And that was a lot of fun.
Do you ever hear from the people or anyone who knows them that they’re upset that you’re impersonating their wives or daughters?
I have, yes. I’ve gotten a message from the sister of a wife that I pretended to be. Corey Lewandowski, that guy. So his wife’s sister was like, “She didn’t do anything wrong!” And I’m like, I mean, but she’s married to him. But also, I try not to villainize the women that I’m portraying, unless they’re shitheads, you know?
That’s interesting, because this is something that gets talked about with Melania Trump a lot. And I recently interviewed Laura Benanti, who plays her on Colbert’s show and she's fantastic. And she really makes a point not to turn Melania into a victim because she doesn’t view her as a victim. Is that something that you think about, whether you’re making them sympathetic or not?
So with people like Tom Cotton's wife or Corey Lewandowski’s wife, those women I don’t know anything about, except that they’re married to crappy men. But because they don’t have a public voice or persona, I try to make them smarter than their husbands. I like characters who are like, “Yeah, I know he’s a shitbag” or “Let me tell you something crazy about him.” I love doing that. I love to turn it on its side. But then, you know, people like Kelly Loeffler or Marjorie Taylor Greene, I have no problem—if a woman is a bad person, then I’m not going to play her as a victim ever. Women can be bad too. It’s 2021. We can do anything.
Next week on (the 100th episode of) ‘The Last Laugh’ podcast: Nathan Lane on the 25th anniversary of ‘The Birdcage.’