Friday, October 20, 2006

An interview with humorist Andy Borowitz

Hot on the heels of his previous bestseller, The Big Book of Shockers, humorist Andy Borowitz (bit of trivia: he's also the creator of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and the producer of Pleasantville) has released The Republican Playbook, a satirical re-production of George W. Bush's copy of the mythical manual of tactics and tricks employed by the GOP. Andy graciously granted this email interview.

Allen Voivod: Tell me a little about the genesis of The Borowitz Report. Was there a moment you recall that made you think, "Aha! I have to do this"? What's the origin story?

Andy Borowitz: There wasn't one single moment. I had started writing fake news when I was an editor of The Harvard Lampoon in college. When I started going online (shockingly late, in 1997 or so) I started writing fake news stories and sending them to friends. I started the site in 2001 just to make it easier to send the stories out. I was really just doing it for me and my friends - I had no idea that millions of people would someday read it.

AV: Similarly, what's the origin story behind The Republican Playbook?

AB: Hyperion approached me to do the book. The idea was, basically, we've all heard about the Republicans "pulling a page from the Republican Playbook," so what if that book actually existed? What would it look like? Then I had the idea that it would be fun to do Bush's copy of the book, with his doodles, etc., and I kind of took it from there.

AV: What's the feedback about The Republican Playbook been like from Democrats? Republicans? Non-party identified whackos?

AB: Democrats have loved the book, and I haven't heard from Republicans, so either they haven't read it or they're silently fuming. As for whackos, I think they have bigger fish to fry, like claiming that they murdered JonBenet Ramsey.

AV: Are you driven in your satire by political motivations or specific ideologies? If so, do tell! Or is your writing fueled solely by a desire to entertain?

AB: I'm not an idealogue. I'm just trying to make people laugh. A lot of people assume I'm a super-Democrat because I attack Bush, but if Kerry had won I would be having a field day with him.

AV: What advice do you have for aspiring satire writers - your absolute best tip, the one that no one has ever heard in any writing class, or read in any trade publication?

AB: I would say do something online, because it's so easy and cheap to do, and people will read you. The Borowitz Report is a good example of something that was put out there with no promotion or publicity and people just found it. If you write something that makes people laugh it will take off.

The Republican Playbook is on sale now at
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Satire pervades the web, seeping into mailboxes and mainstream news like a spilled cup of coffee. It stains and it won't go away.

The Bitter Cup is a collaborative blog for members of HumorFeed, a collaborative of satire and humor sites that has been making trouble since 2003.