It’s been one year since Donald Trump was elected president, and Alec Baldwin – who has rankled the commander in chief with a purposely hideous SNL impression that Trump says “stinks” – cannot contain himself when it comes to the topic of the president. “The thing that has been so mystifying to me and so frustrating to me is that Trump has learned nothing over the past year,” Baldwin tells Rolling Stone. “He has changed not at all while he has had this important job, and it’s a job that presents you with an opportunity to see the world through the most rarified window. I thought that the job would change him, and I am overwhelmed by how he has not changed at all.”
He illustrates this in a new Trump parody book with a terrifically Trumpian title, You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President, which he co-wrote with journalist, novelist and radio host Kurt Andersen. The book presents a fictionalized (and hilarious) account of Trump’s sexism, racism and, of course, solipsism since he entered the Oval Office in chapters like “The Bad Polls Are Probably Mostly or Completely Fake,” “Is Jared a Fredo?” and “It Finally Felt Real, Like in a Movie.” Throughout, photos of Baldwin-as-Trump illustrate the president getting spray-tanned, riding around Mar-a-Lago in Golf Cart One and sitting on the toilet, phone in hand. It’s a look at the things that could very well make the president tick.
To write it, Andersen says he tapped into the “raging insecurity” that dictates Trump’s psyche. Since he was writing a book, he ascribed a story arc to Trump but agrees with Baldwin that he doesn’t feel that the president has changed since entering office. But one of the biggest challenges was tapping into Trump’s thought process. “It was like learning to speak a foreign language,” Andersen says. “Here are the adverbs he uses; here are the negative adjectives he uses; here are the positive ones and so on. “Then it was just a matter of capturing how this guy would think realistically. It is meant to e funny and over the top and all of that, but I plunged myself in and, as a result, if you talk to my wife, for three months I was a jerk. I channeled him a little too well sometimes.”
Ultimately, Andersen found himself “Trumpifying” his own sentences to get it to sound right. “Just because he is so deeply ignorant doesn’t necessarily mean he has a low IQ,” he says, reacting to Trump’s many claims about his own intelligence. “I would be surprised if he had a high IQ. But when I was writing, again and again, I would write a sentence or construction of a thought and it was too clear and the sentence was too smart frankly, so I had to Trumpify it and shave off some IQ points. I think his kind of animal genius is what made him realize the moment would come he would not be laughed off the stage if he ran for president. I think he has genius instincts, but give him the SAT and I think he gets below 600.”
That said, Baldwin has his own theories about the frame of mind that informs Trump’s actions, and why the president has such a thin skin when it comes to parodies like Baldwin’s impression or, ostensibly, You Can’t Spell America Without Me.
Watch a trailer for the book, ‘You Can’t Spell America Without Me’
There are so many Trump impersonators. Why do you think he hates your so much in particular?
I think Trump is bitter and dissatisfied with anything. You could use CGI or something and digitally change the appearance of an actor with footage of Trump himself, and then Trump is going to say, “I hate it. That is bad. That is terrible,” looking at Trump himself. Trump is someone who is never going to be satisfied with anything that upsets him.
Lorne Michaels recently said that Kate McKinnon has something empathetic about her characters on Saturday Night Live. How would you describe your relationship with Donald Trump as a character?
It’s certainly not with any empathy, I can assure you that.
What are you going for when you do a Trump impression? What’s the secret to his pout?
My goal is just to make Trump sound as miserable possible. We make Trump just absolutely bitter and as miserable as can be.
Have you met him personally?
Trump is someone I would run into in New York at an event or a red carpet for some photos, years ago, and then he’d be gone. He was not somebody who lingered. I barely got to know him at all.
What was Kurt’s and your goals with You Can’t Spell America Without Me?
Trump is a man who has no ability for reflection or introspection so we tried, in the book, to see Trump groping toward that. What would Trump’s attempt at introspection be even though he would fail miserably at that? And I think Kurt did an amazing job with that too because that is kind of the crux of the book. In this book, there were things that I added and things that I contributed, but in the final analysis it is really like Kurt build this 20,000 square foot house and the only thing I did was pick out the wallpaper in one of the powder rooms. My contribution was modest.
You managed to get some photos for the book outside of Trump Tower. Was that tricky at all?
No. No there were no permits required. We were on a public street and there was very light traffic; we were not blocking any traffic. There were very few people on the street that day and everything went as smoothly as possible. The cops were right there while we were shooting and we didn’t have any difficulties whatsoever.
Has Trump surprised you at all over the past year?
I am not surprised by what Trump does; I am surprised by what Trump does not do. I really had an expectation that Trump would grow in the job like most men I know – I mean, this is a job that has exclusively held by men – but I really thought he would change and I am kind of stunned that he hasn’t. Just to add to that is that, the bar is so low. With Trump, the bar is basically in the dirt, and the Republican Party is to blame for this. The bar can’t get any lower with Trump so even the slightest modification would have potentially reaped him huge dividends. It would have been a really great thing for him, but you don’t get that. He has done nothing to adjust to the task.
Has he done anything commendable over the last year in your opinion?
That is a good question. His children stuck by him, so I have to imagine in some way he is a good father. His children have not abandoned him or thrown him under the bus, and I can’t imagine that all of that has to do with money and trust funds. Maybe he really is a good, loving father. I don’t know. That might be the one thing I can give him, and, other than that, no, there is nothing he has done that I admire.
What do you have to say to people who are suffering Trump fatigue?
I totally appreciate that. I think we’re doing a little less with Saturday Night Live appearances, because we wanted to be not so automatic and take that for granted. I do think people can step away from it for a couple of weeks, and then there is Trump doing what he does best, which is just confounding people and disappointing people and upsetting people, and then we rush in and try and do something out of that. So I am going to do less shows because of this kind of Trump fatigue that everyone is kind of going through, but I am going to do a few this year because I think I still do get a very positive response from people who still think it is worth saying from time to time.
Let’s say Trump gets impeached and removed from office. Do you think things would be better off with Mike Pence?
[They have] the possibility to be better with Pence, because Pence is an insider. He is one of them. It is assumed he will be able to deal in some way. It is assumed he is going to play in some way. He was a senator and we’d have a greater chance of some level of not just cooperation but efficiency with the government with just about anybody but Trump.
I mean, Trump is like a blind and drunk guy at the controls of a train. Only bad things can result from that whereas with Pence, who is somebody who I have no respect whatsoever for any of his opinions, I believe he could be pulled in certain directions – in the way that the President customarily is when he is in office. All of them change. All of them modify their proposals and their opinions so forth. They compromise, and I think that we are more likely to have some degree of compromise, maybe not an extraordinary amount, but some degree of compromise with Pence than you do with Trump.