News & Politics

Trump Impersonator in Super Bowl Commercial Says Kirk Cousins Was an “Excellent” Comedy Partner

John Di Domenico had to record an extra last-minute line after the Alex Smith trade, though.

John Di Domenico as President Trump and NFL quarterback Kirk Cousins in Cyprus Air's ad that aired during the Super Bowl. Screenshot via YouTube.

Cyprus Air, a chain of suburban heating and air-conditioning, had to make a last-minute edit to its second-annual Super Bowl commercial featuring Donald Trump impersonator John Di Domenico. It wasn’t to accommodate any of the real-life President’s shenanigans, but to reflect the change in circumstances for Di Domenico’s costar, Kirk Cousins, who was thrust into the NFL wilderness last week when the Washington football team obtained quarterback Alex Smith from Kansas City and signed him to a long-term contract.

“Sneaky Alex stole your job, so…” Di Domenico-as-Trump says in a voiceover halfway through the ad, which aired in a local-advertising slot after the third quarter of Sunday night’s game.

Di Domenico and Cousins had shot the rest of the ad for Cyprus Air’s gas-fireplace business three weeks ago, shooting outside the White House and at Cyprus Air’s store in Falls Church. The first half of the ad features Trump having converted the executive mansion’s heating system to coal-burning fireplaces (turning the place into an “ash hole), with Cousins interjecting with an idea to replace them with Cyprus Air’s cleaner, natural-gas-powered installations. The second half relocates the pair to a faux Oval Office, where Cousins fails to prevent Trump, who promises to deliver “fire and fury” from hitting a giant red button. (It ignites a fireplace, not a nuclear weapon.)

Cousins filmed his bits of the ad wearing one of his jerseys and a burgundy Cyprus Air sweatshirt. But after the trade for Smith almost certainly ended Cousins’s time in Washington, the ad makers figured they needed to get something in, Di Domenico says. The actor, who’s impersonated Trump (and a couple dozen other characters) for decades, recorded the “Sneaky Alex” line in a studio at his Las Vegas home last week so it could be spliced into the middle of the final commercial. While Cousins wasn’t present for the new line, Di Domenico still rates the quarterback as a good comedy partner.

He’s excellent,” Di Domenico says. “He just walked up on his own, knew his lines, was totally ready to go. He’s a funny guy. I couldn’t have asked for a better non-acting partner for this thing.”

Di Domenico cut his first Cyprus Air ad in 2017, when he discussed gas fireplaces with retired Washington offensive lineman (and one-time awkward television salesman) Joe Jacoby. That spot featured the two goofing on Washington’s winter weather (“It’s colder than Russia!”) and Trump’s frequent invocations of “winners” and “deals.” Cyprus Air called Di Domenico back for a second outing about six months ago, he says. This one, with its references to the palace intrigue of Michael Wolff‘s Fire and Fury and the threat of nuclear war seems to go to darker places.

Di Domenico, who came up with the ad’s gags along with a few writing partners, insists the ad isn’t meant to depress anyone. “Every line had at least six alternate lines,” he says. “A reference to a nuclear bomb going off? That’s not what it really is. We’re in a fireplace store.”

But even though Di Domenico has been playing Trump for years in commercials and at corporate events, it’s become a tricker act since 2016. “I’ve been following this guy for a long time,” he says. “But I knew once he got into office things were going to get divisive. Both sides are very sensitive. I want people on both sides to laugh.”

That’s part of the reason why Di Domenico keeps his material relevant to whoever is paying his appearance fee, hence jokes that apply equally to gas furnaces and nuclear weapons. But topicality has other benefits. While the ad only aired on television in the Washington market, it’s picked up a global audience thanks to repeat viewings on YouTube, where it’s currently the 31st-ranked trending video. Plenty of companies try to make their Super Bowl advertisements current, but Cyprus Air was the only one that featured a direct appearance by Trump, or at least someone pretending to be Trump.

Obviously it’s a big deal but the fact that it gets traction in a crowded marketplace,” Di Domenico says. “But for the second year in a row, we’re the only ad with Trump in it.”

He says he hasn’t talked with Cyprus Air yet if he’ll be back for a third Super Bowl in 2019.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.