“You Can’t Spell America Without Me: A So-Called Parody by Alec Baldwin and Kurt Anderson, Penguin Press, 246 pages, $29; “The Trump Leaks” from The Onion, Harper Design, Unpaginated, $35; “The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics” by Maureen Dowd, Twelve, 483 pages, $18.99 paper.
Among the countless things that distinguish humor professionals from humor consumers is the idea that the Trump years make humor easy. Not so. Quite the opposite. Every day’s White House insanity is so beyond the pale that it does two things: 1) leaves humor professionals dumbfounded and 2) hits sane professionals with how very few laughs there are in what Maureen Dowd called “the derangement of American politics.”
Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Co. can score ratings points on Trump patrol with elementary bile and quips (Colbert) and deep-dish fury (Oliver) but it’s largely nervous -- indeed panicked -- laughter. So is Alec Baldwin’s Trump on “Saturday Night Live.” His willingness to do a continuing Trump impression is funnier than the thing itself.
Fortunately for Baldwin, his parody of a Trump memoir “You Can’t Spell America Without Me” has a heavyweight co-author, Kurt Anderson, novelist, Vanity Fair contributor and the former Spy Magazine editor who, immortally, called Trump a “short-fingered vulgarian.” (Actually his fingers aren’t that short but the acid joke gets the point across.) The subtitle here in this pseudo-Trump memoir is “The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year As President.” (Sample: “Check out the trouble the Tic-Tac company is facing after the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape incident. The president of the United States gives their product the greatest publicity they’ve ever had, and they put out a statement calling me ‘unacceptable. ’”) It’s sort of funny, to be sure, but not great.
Surprisingly disappointing altogether is The Onion’s “The Trump Leaks: The Onion Exposes the Top Secret Memos, E-Mails and Doodles That Could Take Down a President” which, frankly, seems like a long way to go and a lot of effort expended for not much. Dowd’s paperback collection of election columns includes 10 new ones from after the election.