From sketches to stand-up, comedian Cody Lindquist, BA ’02, specializes in tickling political funny bones. Now she’s moving into the White House as the voice of Melania Trump in a Stephen Colbert animated series.
Originally published in GW Today (August 15, 2018).
Actress Cody Lindquist, BA ’02, has played twin sister murder victims on Law & Order and a mock action hero on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. She’s appeared in commercials for Dunkin Donuts, 7-Up and Pizza Hut. She’s even performed a full Star War scene dressed as Princess Leia in a rush-hour New York City subway car.
"That’s the life of a working actress," said the theater major and mother of two young sons. Viewers can see her one day on The Today Show—and the next on a commercial for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
And with her next part, Lindquist may be on her way to becoming a household voice. She plays First Lady Melania Trump in the Stephen Colbert-produced animated series Our Cartoon President on Showtime. For a news junkie who enjoyed GW’s political scene as much as its theater world, Lindquist says this may be the role of a lifetime. “You don’t hear much from Melania so she’s sort of a blank slate for me,” she said. “No one can tell me I’m doing her wrong.”
Voice-over animation is the latest in a long list of genres on Lindquist’s resume, from sketch comedy to Shakespeare. She is a regular in the New York City comedy community. In addition to frequently appearing at improvs as a stand-up comedian, she's scored roles on the Comedy Central series The President Show and Broad City.
Lindquist also combines her passions for politics and performance in her popular “Two Beers In” podcast, which she describes as a “tipsy political roundtable.” Broadcast live from at an East Village theater, each episode features Lindquist and husband Charlie Todd chugging beers and debating the headlines with a panel of comedians and journalists. Guests have included writers from Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show as well as reporters from The Nation, The Atlantic and her GW classmate Shawna Thomas, BA ’03, the D.C. bureau chief for Vice News.
“I like speaking with people who are smarter than I am. And I like drinking beer. So, it’s a win-win,” she joked. “For me and my husband, it’s like date night.”
As a theater student at GW, Lindquist imagined herself winning Oscars rather than laughs. With encouragement and inspiration from Theatre Professors Alan Wade and the late Nathan Garner, Lindquist pointed her star toward becoming a “serious actor,” she said. She eschewed GW comedy troupes like Recess and starred in classical plays, such as Equus with the Generic Theatre. “GW has an amazing comedy tradition and I played no part in it whatsoever,” she laughed. After graduation, she performed George Bernard Shaw with the Washington Stage Guild and Shakespeare with the National Players of Olney, Md.
But while Lindquist worked steadily in New York, she grew weary of bouncing from auditions to casting calls. Looking for a change, she enrolled in classes at the Upright Citizen Brigade, a comedy salon that launched the careers of Saturday Night Live veterans Amy Poehler and Horatio Sanz. She immersed herself in writing and performing skits, appearing on stage as a middle-aged single woman clinically diagnosed as an “old maid” and on TV as a mother who would rather explain the bird-and-the-bees to her daughter than Mid East politics. She soon realized she had comic timing—a skill she attributes to her classical training at GW. “If you asked me when I left GW if I was going to be a comedian, I would have said you were crazy. But maybe all those years of doing Shakespeare prepared me to be a comic actor,” she said.
Meanwhile, Lindquist has joined her husband Todd's massive public performance project known as Improv Everywhere. With a flash-mob ensemble, they perform collective pranks throughout the city, racking up more than 2 million YouTube viewers. In addition to her Star Wars-on-the-6-Line performance—at one stop, Darth Vader boards the train to abduct Lindquist’s Lea—the group has organized antics like “Frozen Grand Central,” where 200 commuters suddenly froze-in-place in the middle of the busy terminal. Their annual “No Pants Subway” scheme attracts hundreds of volunteers who commute through Manhattan in their underwear in the dead of winter. Lindquist even pulled a prank at her own wedding, tapping a professional wrestler to interrupt the ceremony and seemingly attack the wedding party with a folding chair.
Lindquist was shooting a commercial in San Francisco when her agent approached her about the Cartoon President opportunity. Rather than stop by a studio for an audition, the producers asked her to record impersonations of 20 political figures on her iPhone. While eating hotel room service, she ad-libbed a “who’s-who” of Capitol Hill caricatures—from a drawling Mitch McConnell to a high-octane Bernie Sanders. Her Melania-voice combines a touch of Arnold Schwarzenegger, she says, with an accent that’s “nondescript Eastern European, a little Russian and maybe occasional Spanish.” Still she was surprised when she was cast as the first lady. “I thought my Hillary was stronger,” she said.
She doesn’t strain to make her portrayal ultra-realistic. Her Melania is a secret subversive, she says. “I give her a little bite and sort of a jaded point of view.” The character has become known for her emotive eye-rolls and her daily schedule of “Crying. Then lunch. Then, more crying. Then, Ellen!”
Lindquist isn’t sure if Our Cartoon President will earn a second term on Showtime. But with the political news dominating headlines and punchlines, there’s no shortage of work for topical comedians. “Being in D.C. for four years shaped me as a person and defined the type of work I’m passionate about to this day,” she said. “And it gave me endless material.”