Alec Baldwin on writing a parody memoir about Trump: 'How can I make him as miserable as possible?'
Alec Baldwin expands his Emmy-winning Saturday Night Live Trump impersonation to the page in You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump.
The book, dubbed a “so-called parody,” features plenty of new art featuring Baldwin as Trump, as well as a running satirical narrative of the president’s first year in office, most of which is written by novelist and Spy co-founder Kurt Andersen. The book was released on Tuesday (order it here), meaning readers now have the chance to laugh (or, who knows, cry) as they experience some alternate history.
Baldwin and Andersen spoke with EW to discuss the making of the book, the role of satire in the Trump era, and the fine line of parodying someone who you not only dislike, but makes you fear for the future. Read on below, and check out an exclusive teaser for You Can’t Spell America Without Me above, which features Baldwin-as-Trump really tremendously teasing the book.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Alec, when this project was announced, you gave a funny interview where you said something like, “I think it’s fair to say Kurt will do most of the writing… we have an arrangement whereby he doesn’t put on a wig and I won’t open a Word doc.”
ALEC BALDWIN: I knew going in that people would expect he would do the writing, since he’s a famous humorist. He’d send me bundles of chapters, and I’d send him notes back, and write a paragraph here and there. There’s things in there I wrote… but he wrote 97 percent of it.
KURT ANDERSEN: We took the premise seriously: If Trump sat down to write a memoir, how would he do it? How would he attempt to be introspective? I’m happy where we took the story. It’s not just, he’s orange, he’s huge; it goes to some very dark places. It can give chills even as it goes a little over the top.
Alec, talk to me about your Trump parody on SNL — the inspiration for this book — and what it’s like to do it.
AB: The Trump we’re doing is part of a live show, a cold open — firing a cannon, if you will. It’s not like we’re doing a movie where I’m playing Trump, where everything would be finely etched. What we’re doing is louder, brassier; Trump is often at a podium, so he’s projecting.
Kurt, what is it about Alec’s Trump impression that grabbed you?
KA: In addition to the fact that he was funny and had a natural affinity for that character, it was just cathartic to have this on national television at a time when we were coming to grips with Trump as president. I just found it a thrilling comfort, in a way.
Both in the show and in the book’s photos, Alec, we see you as angry Trump, mouth pursed, face screwed up.
AB: I decided at the beginning it was best to show Trump as just miserable. You raise your left eyebrow, you stick your mouth out like you’re trying to suck the windshield out of a car, and you get the hands going. Whatever you do, in terms of the physicality, you try to maintain a baseline: The guy’s just miserable, no matter what happens. How can I make him as miserable as possible?
It’s one thing to parody someone you admire, but it’s quite another to parody someone you don’t like. What was it like channeling Trump for months?
KA: Fortunately the writing process was short, only three months. Though my wife did complain I became more of a jerk.
AB: Trump is a nightmare, a nightmare. A man who is a hate-filled, intellectually incurious, selfish. You want the president of the United States to have a high degree of empathy for the day-to-day concerns of average Americans. You don’t want to believe he is for sale. You don’t want him to act like he’s the honorary chairman of some country club. You want him to do what’s best for the greatest number of people… whereas Trump has told us again and again over the course of these last 10 months that he doesn’t care. I think there will be a huge rebound in the next election, someone who will help us bring back what we think of as American.
I’m just afraid of all the damage that’s going to be done before that happens.
AB: I’m beside myself about [EPA director Scott] Pruitt. He’s done more damage to one department than anyone in American history. He’s upended everything… Everyone knows having clean air, clean water, trying to reduce emissions in cars, trying to protect open federal land, they’re the right things to do, and Pruitt wants to take that away. It’s like being in a vegetarian restaurant and the chef decides he’s only gonna cook steak, to insist everyone eat a meal that’s abhorrent to them.
I know we’ll get through this as a country, but it’s hard.
AB: When Trump is gone, I’m going to stand on my corner in lower Manhattan and scream at the top of my lungs. I’m going to scream a primal scream. Loud.
What’s the role of satire in a time like this?
AB: Look, a lot of people find all the late-night portrayals of Trump boring. They want to see him really get barbecued. This book is for them: Kurt is really funny. You feel like it wouldn’t actually be far from Trump’s actual memoir. The beauty of the book, and Kurt’s writing, is this is Trump trying to be reflective and introspective, which of course he’s incapable of.
KA: There’s never been a time like this! Satire gives a sense of community to those who share the view of this as a freakish and disconcerting time. Satire doesn’t change minds… usually. But Tina Fey’s depiction of Sarah Palin on SNL really did become a big part of the popular understanding of who Sarah Palin was. Look, don’t underestimate the importance of humor right now.