The trick to imitating Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Joy Mamey said last week, is to get his throat sounds right.
“Mitch makes a lot of noises in the back of his mouth as he thinks about what to say next,” explained the actress, who plays McConnell with Capitol Comedy, a musical comedy group that falsifies party politics. The group is playing this weekend at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. “Then you add a Southern accent to it and you have Mitch McConnell. I would not say mine is a perfect imitation of Mitch, but I understand the essence of it pretty well. My version of him is more like a comic book villain. . ”
Growing up in Los Angeles, Mamey had always, she said, lived in the world of performance. “My father was a conductor and composer, so I was always around artists. In eighth grade, I was a Pickalittle Lady in The musician and I gave her a really strange voice. The audience laughed at it, and that was what I was in love with to make fun of. ”
She got the concert with Capitol Comedy last summer by auditioning as Rachel Maddow. “I got her to tell the story of Humpty Dumpty,” Mamey said. “I have short hair and wear glasses, and that helped on my Rachel imitation. They really liked it. ”
But then casting director Mamey asked to do Donald Trump. “Let me tell you, I do not make a particularly good Donald Trump,” she admitted. “That’s why they cast me as Mitch McConnell. But I got the job, so it was good.”
McConnell is easier to do if you understand how people talk, Mamey said. “My mom is a speech pathologist, so I’ve always been aware of things like dialect and word placement and accents. It’s been interesting to dissect this crazy guy’s vocal patterns.”
Capitol Comedy is written by comedy writer Nick Zill, though the cast suggests an occasional joke or dialogue. Zill’s political stance is moderate, pro-liberal, Mamey said. It’s a comedy that does not dig deep into whether McConnell is sneaky or whether he is deliberately standing in the way of progress.
“Nick takes a question or a topic and focuses on making it fun, instead of trying to suggest that the right or the wrong guy is in office,” she said. “We end with a call for action to go out to the polls, and we talk about how a ballot box in Pasadena was set on fire and how turnout for the colored was greater than ever. But much of it can be hard to make fun of. ”
Playing a man at a time when people are learning to be more respectful of gender roles can be sensitive, Mamey said.
“But I do not dress like a man to make fun of men or how men behave,” she said. “I play a ruler who works to oppress people and beat the ridiculous in the cruelty of this person who happens to be a man.”
The other characters that Mamey plays are both women, one of them a Republican southerner who is in favor of voter oppression. “I’m going to wear three different wigs in this show!” she said with a laugh. “And I get to show off my singing voice. We make this song called ‘When the Souls Go to the Polls’ to the tune of ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’ It’s all a lot of fun, even with all the quick changes backstage. ”
These days, when she does not imitate infamous politicians, Mamey teaches children improvisation. Standup and sketching are great, she said, but improvisation was the most exciting thing.
“I have a different approach to improvisation,” she said. “The best thing you can take from it is the idea that everything you do is right. Thinking about your choices on stage as always can really lead you to all sorts of really amazing things. ”
Do you like playing the Senate Minority Leader in a musical comedy spoof?
“Absolutely like that,” she said.