Brazilian impersonator aims to 'detoxify' Bolsonaro backers

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Andre Marinho's impressions of President Jair Bolsonaro have gone viral on social media, but have also exposed him to numerous insults (AFP/NELSON ALMEIDA)
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Andre Marinho stands up tall, furrows his brow and delves deep into the back of his throat to find the voice of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro.

He then reels off some of the president's most inflammatory quotes, from homophobic slurs to his threats to "burn the Supreme Court!"

Brazilian impressionist Marinho has gone viral on the internet with his sketches about the vitriolic far-right president.

Marinho told AFP that his "subversive" humor aims to "highlight the inconsistencies, peculiarities and bizarre" comments made by Bolsonaro.

But he doesn't just want to amuse his fans, he is also hoping to "detoxify, disenchant or 'delobotomize' at least one Bolsonaro supporter."

While there is nothing unusual about a comedian mocking a political leader, this 27-year-old native of Rio de Janeiro used to be a Bolsonaro supporter himself.

His businessman father Paulo Marinho was part of Bolsonaro's inner circle on the campaign trail before his 2018 election.

That gave the younger Marinho "privileged access" to hone his act, and even Bolsonaro enjoyed his earlier sketches.

Originally Marinho saw Bolsonaro as someone who could shake up the stale, old political landscape in "an unprecedented alliance of liberals and conservatives that promised to reestablish order and progress in Brazil."

But Bolsonaro "proved to be more of the same and betrayed everything he promised."

"I regret having supported him," Marinho says now.

And Marinho is not alone. Bolsonaro's popularity has dropped to just 22 percent due to his highly-criticized management of Brazil's economic and Covid-19 crises.

- Passion for comedy -

Marinho's passion for comedy began during his childhood when he tried his hand at imitating Bolsonaro's political rival, the left-wing former president Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva.

Marinho first began releasing sketches during the 2018 presidential campaign on YouTube, where he now has 268,000 subscribers.

He was later picked up by Jovem Pan, a pro-government radio station.

Marinho's first viral success was a fictious conversation between then US president Donald Trump and Bolsonaro after the Brazilian was stabbed in the abdomen while campaigning in 2018.

In that video Marinho showed he could speak perfect English and imitate Trump as well as he could Bolsonaro.

His sketches have opened up doors to high society for Marinho, although his father was already well connected.

Last month, another video went viral of Marinho attending a dinner party with political and business figures and impersonating Bolsonaro.

- 'Humor has power to heal' -

Bolsonaro's controversial style "gives me infinite material day after day," said Marinho.

The president's threats to burn the supreme court because of the numerous investigations opened against him, his spreading of fake news or uttering of homophobic slurs have fueled Marinho's act.

However, Marinho's change of heart has not gone down well with everyone, particularly on social media.

"You're really pathetic," and "Calling you a clown would be an insult to clowns," are some of the comments he has received on Twitter and YouTube.

Being called a clown makes Marinho laugh.

"The court jester was a Middle Ages figure who not only sat next to the monarchs but also managed to pass on to them the people's feelings," he quipped.

While Marinho says he is not supporting anyone in next year's elections, he did impersonate Bolsonaro last month at a demonstration organized by right-wing opponents of the president.

"Humor has the power to redeem and heal Brazilian society," says Marinho.

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