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Sarah Cooper, who became famous during the pandemic, has a new memoir

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Comedian Sarah Cooper draws a lot of humor from men in her life, whether it's her dad, her ex-husbands, her ex-boyfriends or her former big tech colleagues. She writes about this, imposter syndrome, her divorce and so much more in her new book called "Foolish: Tales Of Assimilation, Determination, And Humiliation." In 2020, Cooper's lip-syncing videos of some of the absurd and downright false things then-President Trump said during press conferences went viral, like when, during the first months of COVID, he suggested ingesting disinfectant.

SARAH COOPER: He, to me, was this sort of schmoozy tech bro guy who really didn't know what he was doing. It was an antidote to the gaslighting. And that's what it felt like for me, too, because it felt like we were pretending like he was competent. It made me feel like I was the crazy one. It kind of brought us all together in a way that was sort of funny and helped us laugh, but then also helped us see that we weren't the ones losing our minds. This really was a president who was unfit for office.

FADEL: So you chose these, like, pieces of disinformation that were coming from the president. But beyond him being president, it was also during the time of a pandemic. And so people are watching your videos and finding something to laugh at. But you said everything you had always wanted was suddenly handed to you. What was that like, to get it all at once and so suddenly? I know it didn't happen with the first video, but it sounds like once it started, it came like a flood.

COOPER: It really did. And I think I was pretty disassociated at the time. And so I look back now and I think, how did I just get on a Zoom with Ben Stiller and just chop it up with him when I - I don't know. How did I do that, you know? How did I say, hey, Ben, you want to be in my Netflix special, and he said sure? You know, how did that happen? Now it seems so unreal and surreal. And I literally was getting imposter syndrome while writing my own memoir. I spoke at the Democratic National Convention. I was shooting a Netflix special. I was working on a pilot for my first book. I was working on a pilot for my second book. Imposter syndrome is one of those things where I still don't really understand it. Like, it's not that I felt like, oh, I don't deserve this. It just feels like it was so much all at once.

FADEL: You say laughter was a currency in your home among your family. There is this really funny chapter on how your mom reads the sayings on her...

COOPER: Yeah.

FADEL: ...On the house art. Is that what inspired your career path? I mean, how much of what you do is inspired by your family?

COOPER: I think so much of it is. And I thought long and hard about why dads love my videos so much. And I think it was because in my family, my father was quite an authoritarian. And so a lot of times, making him laugh meant making fun of him a little bit in a way that made him feel special and seen. And I think a lot of men like my videos because I'm, you know, making fun of this blowhard man. But a lot of the men are like, yeah, she's making fun of him, not me. But I'm making fun of you, too, actually.

FADEL: (Laughter).

COOPER: I'm making fun of a lot of men. I loved being able to, through the process of writing the book, kind of dig in deep and say, where does this specific type of Sarah Cooper brand of humor come from? And I think a lot of it is my family. And my mom, she - it was, you know, tough going through the divorce. And I'm hugging her and crying. And she's like, Sarah, don't sweat the small stuff. And guess what? It's all small stuff. And I was like, Mom, that is the sign above the couch.

FADEL: (Laughter).

COOPER: Why are you just reading me HomeGoods decor around the house?

FADEL: (Laughter).

COOPER: That was an a-ha moment for me of just like, yeah, my mom is just sort of giving me these sayings. And the frustrating part about that is that all of the sayings are true. Literally not a single one...

FADEL: It was good advice. HomeGoods really delivers.

COOPER: It's good advice. It's all good advice.

FADEL: The day that you're at school and you realize you're Black...

(LAUGHTER)

FADEL: You come home, and you tell your parents, I'm Black, you're Black. If you could just tell me how they responded and sort of how that shaped your view of yourself.

COOPER: Yeah, I was, you know, walking home from the bus stop with my best friend, Stacey, who was Jewish. She still is. And she said that one of the older kids called her an N-word lover. And I was like, why would they call you that? She said, because my best friend is Black. And I said, I thought I was your best friend. And she said, you are. And I said, but wait. And she said, you're Black. And I was like, no, really? And then I went home to my parents and I kind of make fun of myself. And I'm like, Mama, Papa, I think I'm Black. And they were like, no, man. We're Jamaican. And I was like, I think you're Black, too. I think our whole family's Black.

It's one of these things where you come to this country from a majority Black country like Jamaica, and you think of yourself as Jamaican because culturally you are Jamaican. And my grandmother was Chinese, and my grandmother on my other side was German. And so we are very mixed ethnically in Jamaica. And so when you come here, everyone needs to be - you're Black, you're white, you're this, you're that. You have to kind of categorize everybody. And my parents were just like, well, we're Jamaican. It's just been a really confusing thing. And I talk about it in the book about how I don't know if I'm a Black woman or a white dude named Craig.

FADEL: (Laughter).

COOPER: I mean, I worked at Google, you know? So what is race when you come to this country and you are mixed ethnically...

FADEL: Yeah.

COOPER: ...But you're Black, but you're Jamaican? And so, yeah, it was pretty confusing.

FADEL: So I want to go back to something you said earlier about the lip-syncing videos and how they weren't just about Trump, they were about men. But talk about the inspiration for that, you know, when you think about the men this was directed at beyond just this one man.

COOPER: Yeah. I mean, it's jealousy. I was just jealous. I'm jealous of men.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: I know there are men who have imposter syndrome, but so many of them are what I want to be. They're just flying by the seat of their pants. And whatever happens, happens, and they own it. The idea about this being more than Trump is that it's about this culture we sort of have of trusting the guy with the money and who can talk the loudest. I don't want to do the predictable thing. I want to be like, bleh, you know? I want to have that in my life. I don't want to just have complete control because we don't have control anyway.

FADEL: Yeah.

COOPER: So yeah, that's kind of how deep I am, so yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

FADEL: Sarah Cooper. Her new book is called "Foolish: Tales Of Assimilation, Determination, And Humiliation." Thank you so much, Sarah.

COOPER: Thank you so much, Leila.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOB MARLEY SONG, "STIR IT UP (ALTERNATE JAMAICAN)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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