Exclusive Q&A with ANDY BOROWITZ AB '80

By Nicole Torres AB '11

borowitz.jpgNew York Times best-selling author and comedian Andy Borowitz AB '80 has written for The New Yorker since 1998. He is the creator of satirical news column The Borowitz Report, for which he won the inaugural National Press Club award for humor. His books include The 50 Funniest American Writers and a memoir, An Unexpected Twist.

Q. It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since we last profiled you for Harvardwood! Throughout your career you have worked in an impressive number of mediums spanning television, journalism, political satire, social media, stand up comedy, teacher, musician, radio host, and author.  How have you managed to transition between and work in so many different arenas?

A. It's all been one long happy accident. Opportunities to do different things, like radio or standup, have presented themselves and I've said yes to them. It's the classic improv lesson of saying "yes, and..." to every proposition. Not everything you try will work out, but it's always interesting to try.

Q. Of all the different mediums and work you’ve done over the years, do you have a favorite?

A. Not really. They've all been fun at the time. I'm really enjoying the mix I have now—writing for The New Yorker, some live shows, some radio—but that mix will no doubt change in the years ahead.

Q. What are you currently working on?

I write a hundred columns a year for The New Yorker, and that seems to keep me busy enough.

Q. One of the many things you're known for is your political satire, particularly the Borowitz Report. What started as a funny email to friends has grown into a website read by millions. How has it evolved since then, and has the expansion in readership influenced your approach?

borowitz_Book.jpegA. I hope I've gotten a little better at writing it, but that's up to readers to decide. My approach is the same as it's always been. I look at what's going on in the world and then try to boil down a very complex story to a 200-word joke version.

Q. In addition to the Borowitz Report, do you do any other types of political satire or politically influenced work?

A. My standup is pretty topical, and I've been commenting on politics for the NEW YORKER RADIO HOUR on public radio.

Q. What are your thoughts on the current presidential election, and how has it influenced your work?

A. Given that there is only one qualified person running (I'll let you take a wild guess who I mean by that) it astonishes me that people are discussing this election as if it were a genuine contest. When I see places like CNN comparing and contrasting the candidates, all in the name of "balance," I feel embarrassed for the people doing that.

Q. Do you have any particular messages you are trying to convey or goals you want to accomplish with your political work?

A. I have what I consider to be pretty realistic goals for my writing. I think political satire changes very few minds. At best, it makes some people laugh, which helps fight off despair and makes it easier for them to get out of bed in the morning. If I've managed to help people in that way I consider it a big deal.

Q. What would you do if Trump won? And Hillary?

A. Well, I think Hillary will win. If Trump wins, I'll briefly console myself with the knowledge that Gary Johnson didn't win, since that would probably be even more humiliating for the entire country. But after that I'll start building a bomb shelter. 

Q. Rewinding a bit, the Fresh Prince of Bel Air was one of my favorite shows growing up.  Do you envision a return to the show, or Hollywood, especially given today’s modern social climate?

A. I can't see a good reason to do a new version, since the old one still seems to be on TV a lot. 

Q. What inspires you?

A. Reading a book by a great writer. Ann Patchett's new novel Commonwealth is one of those books.

Q. Is there anything you haven’t done that that you still want to do?

A. I don't have some great unfulfilled ambition, like writing a Broadway play or directing a movie. I feel as though I've already gotten the opportunity to try more things than I ever thought I would. But I'm very open to trying new things when they come up. I have no idea what they'll be.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring writers and creators who want to follow in your footsteps?

A. Really, it gets back to that "yes, and..." principle from improv. Don't be afraid to try things. And if you want to write, or perform, or anything, get out and do it. The only way to get better at what you do is by actually doing it. None of this is groundbreaking advice, but it works.

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