Andy Borowitz takes his satire very seriously. The man behind “The Borowitz Report” regularly skewers President Donald Trump in The New Yorker, but says the comedy behind the column isn’t as easy pickings as one might think.
Borowitz is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, stand-up comedian and long-time television writer — he co-created the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air in 1990.
Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia talked to him about comedy and President Trump ahead of a live event Friday at the Chicago Theater.
On writing satire in the age of Trump
Andy Borowitz: My job historically has been to take the real news and make it slightly more absurd and Trump defies that paradigm. You cannot improve upon what he already does. So it required me to completely change what I do.
Tony Sarabia: In what ways?
Borowitz: Well now I’m really just transcribing. I must say, I’m not making anything up. Somebody probably is putting a “crazy town” sign on his oval office door. It’s really not a huge leap of the imagination. I’m just connecting the dots, coloring in this ridiculous, surreal, fourth-grade coloring book — well fourth grade might be pitching a little high — it’s just a ridiculous situation. You can’t really make a joke about a joke — that’s kind of a law of comedy physics.
On unpacking Trump’s logic
Borowitz: I often have to put myself in the position of the most gullible journalist in America and just take Trump’s logic at face value and then just work it out from there. So I’m really more unpacking his logic than I am coming up with anything crazy because he’s coming up with all the crazy stuff.
On defining satire
Borowitz: To me, satire requires there to be morally, a worthy target. You’re trying to take down something big. That’s a constant with previous administrations. I certainly wrote a lot about George W. Bush during the invasion of Iraq and all the ridiculously catastrophic things that happened during those eight years, so that has remained the same. What’s different here is that the object of satire has no dignity and no credibility and often, he’s really his worst enemy. He’s making himself look bad before I even get to work.
On the impact of his work
Borowitz: I’m actually trying to activate people, raise them out of their depression or despair and say look, we still do have power in this country and we can do something. Now having said that, I do not think that the things I write or say change anybody’s mind. I’m not trying to convince a Trump voter that this is an evil or an incompetent person. I’m only trying to motivate the people who already agree with me. I’m preaching to the choir, 100 percent.
On growing up in Cleveland, Ohio
Borowitz: Cleveland, when I was growing up in the seventies, was kind of a place that was made fun of, and ridiculed and mocked. We were called the mistake on the lake. Our river, the Cuyahoga River, actually caught on fire when I was a kid. Randy Newman wrote a song about that.
On co-creating The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Sarabia: How did a white, Jewish man come to create that popular nineties sitcom which, as people know, is a show about a well to-do black family…
Borowitz: Well it wouldn’t happen today, let’s put it that way. Nowadays… I have to be honest, I think the network would have the wisdom to go out and find an African American writer to create that show, full stop. To me, the fact that I was chosen was sort of a factor of the times because there were actually quite a few white writers and producers creating shows for African American casts. The Cosby Show was a great example of that. But I mean I think it would be different now.
LEARN MORE: The Borowitz Report
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation, which was adapted for the web by Nereida Moreno.