Since today is Presidents’ Day, I want to share with everybody my review of You Can’t Spell America Without Me, The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody) by Alec Baldwin and Kurt Andersen. Writing this review immensely expanded my comfort zone because it is political satire, which can age pretty quickly. At the same time, I had a lot of fun composing it, so I hope you enjoy it!
Comedy is subjective and can age very quickly. Not everybody will laugh at the same lines and gags, and it may become stale within 5 years. This is especially true with political satire. It relies on poking fun at politicians – both the ones that people will forget in due time and the ones that will transcend time. Donald Trump clearly falls into the second category. He is no stranger to being lampooned by people like late-night talk show hosts and Saturday Night Live (SNL). Speaking of SNL, they decided to cast long-time host Alec Baldwin to play Trump when the 2016 presidential elections took place. This had gotten so much notoriety that Baldwin and writer Kurt Andersen decided to bank on that by writing a book parodying the first year of the Trump Administration, called You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody), and I have mixed feeling on it.
Let me assess the positive and negative aspects about this book. I will start with the positive. There were a lot of parts that made me either laugh or at least put a smile on my face. These included the photos (like the one with Baldwin as Trump eating a slice of chocolate cake with one hand, holding a smartphone in his other hand while watching Sean Hannity), chapter titles like “If I Acted ‘Presidential’, I’d Lose My Special Powers” and “I Never Panic”, and the running gag of him talking to “Mitzi” (a SIRI-like device) and having her remember song titles that he made up along with adding copyright logos. “Trump” even takes shots at the authors themselves, in which I found assuming in its self-awareness. In my opinion, the best part of the book is in the “Is Jared a Fredo” chapter, where “Trump” asserts that he has to communicate the truth to the people through social media regardless what the facts actually say. At the end of one section, he lists some of his theories that he has tweeted before declaring, “That’s what I tweeted the last couple of days. And no, I do not need to change my supplements and vitamins” (p. 206).
It is pretty clear that the authors gave a lot of thought into making this a quality parody.
And now, let’s move on to the more negative aspects of the book. Since it is a parody, it is not meant to be taken seriously, and yet, how Baldwin and Andersen (the latter had been making fun of Trump since the 1980s) characterize Trump feels too real. In other words, it literally feels that Trump could have actually written this book with or without ghost writers. There were plenty of times that I had to put my views on him aside and try to enjoy the book. I had to do something similar while listening to the audiobook I am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert when he was still on The Colbert Report. It was easier in that case since Colbert was playing a character that was based on conservative pundits, most notably Bill O’ Riley. It was mostly harmless because those commentators were not in as high profile of a position as Trump. Because of the book’s authenticity, I have a feeling that a lot of readers will automatically forget that they are reading a satire on Trump. If I was reading in 2018, I guarantee that I would not have the same problem.
Overall, You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody) is a really good book written by people who have internalized Trump’s behavior and turned that into comedy gold. At the same time, Baldwin and Andersen portray Trump so realistically that it could make readers pretty uncomfortable. I recommend this to people with a warning: put your opinions aside on our 45th president and read it, and if you feel like laughing at him while reading it, do it for your own sake!
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