Interview With The Producers
Political comedy experts Dustin Gold and Anthony Marenna discuss Obama impersonator Ron Butler and the many perks he offers as an entertainer.
Dustin Gold is Executive Producer of Politicos Comedy Brigade. Featured on ABC’s Good Morning America, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Huffington Post, Dustin Gold is well-known and respected in the entertainment industry for producing top-shelf live political comedy shows and developing the world’s best political impersonators. Read his complete bio here.
Anthony Marenna is President of William Gold Entertainment, an entertainment firm which specializes in talent management, artist representation, and entertainment production. William Gold Entertainment’s client list includes major global brands such as Microsoft, LinkedIn, Virgin America, YouTube, Unilever, Yahoo!, MTV, ESPN, AOL, USO, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, Dollar General, CNN, and The Onion among many others. Read his complete bio here.
QUESTION: What is it like working with Obama impersonator Ron Butler?
- ANTHONY MARENNA
- Ron Butler is the best. He’s an award-winning film actor, a prolific television actor, a career theater actor, and he’s been personally trained by William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman, who have both been nominated for Oscars. Those are skills and experiences that clients and business associates like to see from an entertainer like Ron Butler. Qualifications like those are a testament to a performer’s skills in character acting, ability to take direction, and overall professionalism.
- DUSTIN GOLD
- And those skills and experiences really go to who Ron Butler is as a person and as an entertainer. Since I started working with Ron, I have been blown away by his creativity, dedication to his craft and to his clients, and by his tremendous work ethic. The guy works tirelessly to perfect his portrayal of the President, is always writing, producing, directing, and acting in creative productions, and puts just an enormous amount of effort into all of his shows and engagements no matter how big or small his client may be. He’s worked with some of Hollywood’s great producers like Norman Lear, who he has collaborated with on several productions, and he’s worked with everyday people in providing the entertainment for private parties. No matter who the client is or what the project may be, Ron Butler is the kind of person who gives 100% each and every time.
QUESTION: After years in the business of comedy and entertainment, why are you working with Ron Butler?
- DUSTIN GOLD
- Well, it was a long path that led me to finally working with Ron, but I couldn’t be happier that it worked out this way. I originally landed in this business by accident. In 2008 I needed a Barack Obama lookalike for a product advertising campaign I was running through my marketing firm, and I hired a model named Reggie Brown who had recently started impersonating Barack Obama. One thing led to another and I ended up managing Reggie, which went on for a few years. I landed him regular appearances on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher and FOX News Channel, along with hundreds of media and press hits. Under my management we were able to get Reggie Brown national attention. As time went on, I did not feel that Reggie Brown was doing enough to improve his act, and that combined with other creative differences led us to part ways. I began managing another Obama lookalike named Louis Ortiz, and though he naturally looked a lot like the President, it quickly became clear to me that Ortiz lacked important abilities and qualities in other areas. Ron Butler has been a breath of fresh air, and working with him has been one of the highlights of my time in this business. Since I started in entertainment, my colleagues always told me that Ron is the epitome of the word ‘professionalism,’ but in each and every interaction, booking, or project between Ron Butler and my company, he has gone above and beyond anything I could have hoped for.
- ANTHONY MARENNA
- Ron’s professionalism is really of the utmost importance. In this business, whether you are a client, an agent, a producer, or whatever, you value entertainers who are reliable, have good judgment, and who can be counted on to deliver. I’ve seen a lot of shenanigans in this business, and have learned to value positive traits like reliability and good judgment in the entertainers I choose to associate myself with. For instance, when I send Ron out on a booking, I know for sure that he won’t bring drugs on the job, I know he won’t short a client on time, I know he won’t deliver stolen or recycled jokes, and I know that every step of the way he will treat all of his business associates, clients, and attendees with total respect and responsibility. I know those qualities might seem like fundamentals, but they go to problems that I’ve seen too many times in entertainment, and I value Ron Butler greatly because he is simply above all that. He is the professional you hope and expect to be working with, and he is the kind of consummate professional who you want representing your company, brand, or product.
- DUSTIN GOLD
- Beyond Ron Butler’s virtues as a business associate, he is an incredible performer. He has some of the greatest stage and screen presence of any performer I’ve worked with. You need to see him take control of a stage to really know what I mean. A lot of the lookalikes-turned-impersonators I’ve worked with have been limited by their skills and abilities to a setup/punchline-style comedy speech standing at a podium. Ron Butler ranges across the stage, performs original musical parodies with choreographed dance, delivers anecdotal and observational humor, interacts with integrated multimedia, and portrays the President so artfully that I can only compare his presentation to a one-man Broadway show. I’ve had experiences with other impersonators who have tried to enter the business from mainstream jobs like installing cable, waiting tables, catering, and construction – and sometimes they’ve even been unemployed for years. They don’t have the decades of training and practice that Ron Butler has amassed in character acting, comedy, improvisation, storytelling, and theatrics, and all of that comes out on stage. I see Ron Butler as one in a million, the one guy out there right now who can really put it all together: a great character impersonation, incredible performance abilities, creativity, credits, motivation, and total professionalism. And that total package is a rare and valuable thing. I couldn’t be happier to be working with Ron.
QUESTION: What is your level of confidence when offering Ron to your clients?
- ANTHONY MARENNA
- Confidence in talent is a key to the business I’m in. Each and every time we offer an entertainer to a client, we are literally putting our reputation and our ability to continue in our business on the line. If the talent fails or gives the client a subpar product, it could quite literally ruin my business. On the other hand, if the talent gives the client 100% and goes above and beyond to deliver a brilliant performance, it reflects very well on our business. At the end of the day, the client’s satisfaction level is the most important thing in the world for my company. Ron gets that level of satisfaction from clients all the time. Read his testimonials if you want to see what I mean. And the incredible thing about those testimonials is that clients volunteer them to Ron all the time. He doesn’t have to bug clients for them like others I’ve worked with. They appreciate his performance and his clear dedication to them so much that they naturally have plenty of nice things to say about him. And we really can’t ask for more than that from any performer. Ron Butler really is the best.
- DUSTIN GOLD
- I was featured in Bloomberg Businessweek along with my company for our groundbreaking work with political impersonators.
“If you call most look-alike agencies and ask for a Marilyn Monroe, they’ll charge you $500 and not tell you that the girl has a heroin problem,” says Gold. But if one of Gold’s clients requests a Mitt Romney impersonator from his agency, the New York-based Politicos Comedy Brigade, he’ll send them honest evaluations of his impersonators, including unflattering details. “I’ll tell them, ‘This guy looks really good, but he’s a lot shorter than the real deal.’ Or, ‘His voice is OK, but he’s not a great comedian.’ I want them to know exactly what they’re paying for.”
Being able to give a client an honest, positive evaluation of talent is essential for me. I talk to clients every day, and they spend a lot of money on talent, which comes with high expectations. I do tell clients exactly what they can expect from talent, good or bad. When I get calls for Ron, I don’t ever have to worry that my honest evaluations will result in a lost client. With Ron Butler, you get what you pay for and a lot more, and to me, that is an entertainment producer’s dream.