The Very 2020 Ascent of Sarah Cooper

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Sarah Cooper used to work at Google. Now, she’s about to work for Netflix. Well, sorta. In the kind of topsy-turvy story that could only happen in 2020, the UX designer turned comedian is leveraging the fame she’s garnered online during the Covid-19 pandemic to put together a special for the streaming giant. It’s scheduled to premiere this fall—the perfect cap to a whiplash year.

Truly, when it comes to pop culture, if there’s a more 2020 sentence than “comedian who went viral mocking President Trump on TikTok gets Netflix special,” I don’t know what it is. For those who managed to miss the rise of Cooper, though, here’s some backstory: Cooper used to be a writer and correspondent for the CBS All Access show Old News. She also wrote the books 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings and How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings. She’s become a viral sensation during the pandemic for a series of videos wherein she lip-syncs snippets of Trump’s press conferences. The most popular—videos about hydroxychloroquine, “Obamagate,” and the president’s thoughts on the Bible—have received hundreds of thousands of views on TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. But it was her “How to Medical” video, which spoofed Trump’s comments about injecting disinfectant, that got her national notoriety. From there, it was only a matter of time before she achieved mainstream success.

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Following Cooper’s viral hit, she was quickly booked on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and just this week, she served as a guest host on Jimmy Kimmel Live. It’s been an incredible ascent, and one that’s almost tailor made to these times. Comedians have been taking jabs at the president’s public appearances since he took office. But there was something about Trump’s response to the coronavirus that really lent itself to parody. Cooper’s videos effortlessly tapped into that, all while utilizing TikTok’s wildly popular formats and providing laughs for people locked up in quarantine. Her videos couldn’t have been more right, and right on time.

Cooper’s forthcoming Netflix special—titled Sarah Cooper: Everything’s Fine—likely won’t be more of the same. But based on the title, and its allusions to that meme of a cartoon dog surrounded by flames, it’ll probably feature humor made for the internet age, and for its streaming home, Netflix. It’s also got the backing of heavy hitters like Russian Doll’s Natasha Lyonne, who is set to direct, and Maya Rudolph, who will executive produce while (presumably) doing guest spots on Saturday Night Live now that Joe Biden has picked Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. According to Netflix, Cooper’s special will deal with “politics, race, gender, class, and other light subjects,” and will feature “short interviews, sketches, and more shenanigans.” It’ll hit the streaming service this fall.

All told, it sounds like another example of an internet creator going viral and landing mainstream success. That is definitely true, but it also signals something else: a shifting of the tide. The world now has more avenues for #content than ever before. Traditional television shows and films have been massively sidelined by Covid-19 lockdowns—and while we all miss shows like Euphoria and the usual summer blockbusters, a lot of other forms of entertainment, like Cooper’s videos on social media, have emerged to fill the void. There’s no doubt that entertainment has been shifting, and will continue to shift, but the events of 2020 have accelerated that process immensely. During a week where media mogul Sumner Redstone passed away and Sarah Cooper got her own Netflix special, it’s hard not to wonder just how soon the future of entertainment will get here—and what it’ll look like when it does.

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