You Can’t Spell America Without Me by Alec Baldwin and Kurt Anderson
This book was published in 2017 and is an attempt to parody newly elected US President, Donald Trump. The subject himself has mentioned it only to ridicule the authors, but apparently has a skin thick enough to deflect the most vicious barbs. He also has a neck that would make brass look like brie.
In this offering, the authors take us through the life of Trump during and after his inauguration. There is no real structure as such beyond a vague chronology. The chapters bounce from one topic to the next. But each one does take a pop at the Orange One. There is no doubt that the authors did not pull their punches. Some of the set pieces and comments are close to the knuckle, especially those involving Trump’s spoiled daughter, Ivanka.
But Trump is solid material for satire and parody. He makes it easy. Every utterance and action begs ridicule. Every Tweet requires mockery. He is a god-send for comedians. Sadly, though, this book fails to fully deliver. There are some funny segments, ones that might cause you to laugh out loud. But, ultimately, the gags are repetitive and therefore become monotonous. The authors have the right idea. They have the material. They lack the skill necessary to present this spoof in the manner in which it deserves.
There are photos throughout; mocked-up pics of Baldwin impersonating Trump. The actor-cum-comedian has played Trump on Saturday Night Live and it may be this that has prompted him to believe that he can pull it off. He can’t. His impersonations are awful. He looks nothing like Trump – for which he should be eternally grateful – and should have employed a Trump doppelganger for the photos. His pout is fairly embarrassing.
Instead of a well-deserved piss-take of Trump, we get a vehicle that seems to be more about Alec Baldwin and his mediocre comic talent (he’s a good enough actor). Could it be that Baldwin was cashing in on the well-publicised spat he had with Trump?
Rebel Voice suspects that Kurt Anderson did most of the writing for this book. It’s unfortunate that such potential for acidic comment and humorous observation was wasted. Trump is undoubtedly a buffoon and an obvious target. But when attacks upon him flounder, as this did, then they serve only to offer him additional defences.
The book does highlight the unhealthy influence that Jared Kushner has upon his father-in-law. There are references to land-deals and shady behaviour that readers might find of interest. Much of what is being related understandably refers to US figures within both politics and business, so may be confusing to those from outside the USA. This book was not written with a global audience in mind. Yet there are certain gems hidden within.
We see the imagined stress get to Trump as his presidency progresses. His medication increases in line with the international pressure he’s under. He becomes paranoid. We can smile at his penchant for trying to portray himself as a modern WASP, only to find that he’s really racist (as if we didn’t know). This is demonstrated in his attitude towards his ‘African-American’ bodyguard. The parodied Trump tries hard to fit the model of behaviour expected of a US President but can’t quite make it.
His somewhat inappropriate remarks in real life regarding his daughter, Ivanka, are beaten to death in this. The topic would have benefited from a subtler and ultimately sharper approach. Perhaps this is a cultural thing, but even an Irish site such as Rebel Voice can appreciate that if an English author had undertaken this project, i.e. a Trump parody, it would have been better presented, cleverer and therefore more effective. You Can’t Spell America Without Me is a bull in a china shop where humour is concerned. South Park is smarter. The Simpsons is smarter. Curb Your Enthusiasm is smarter. Spongebob Squarepants is smarter.
However, in the interests of fairness, Rebel Voice will give you a flavour of the best that this book has to offer. The Trump character has a problem with names, especially if they happen to belong to a foreigner. This does throw up some amusing scenes. One of them involves the quasi-mental President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. Trump calls him ‘President Duty-Free’ and enjoys that the Filipino is known as the Asian Trump. During a phone call with him, Trump states, ‘… told me his last name is actually Dirty Tea, very polite about that, but that if I ever called him Duty-Free again, he might “mistake” some of our Manila embassy staff for drug dealers… so I invited him to both White Houses, and told him my… senior adviser would fix him some bull’s penis soup with chicken toe-nails and crickets…’ Ya gotta love parody-Trump’s style.
There is also Trump’s reaction at the nation of Turkmenistan which is thinks is made-up and someone’s idea of an un-p.c. joke. He laughs anyway. He enjoys, too much, the name of the African President, Omar Bongo. He regularly gets the name of Jewish festivals wrong, although his daughter is now Jewish, and mocks Muslims. It’s these examples of Trump’s lack of political correctness that are funniest as they are closest, perhaps, to how the real Trump is. He comes across in reality as someone so self-involved that he cares little for anything outside of his own sordid, silver-spooned bubble.
One point to be made about the content of this book is that, although the nation (outside of the US) that has had the greatest influence upon Donald J Trump is Israel, there is not one mention of it in this book. There are no jokes about AIPAC, Netanyahu or the Zionist lobby and its money. It would appear that all are fair game for satire, except Israel.
You Can’t Spell America Without Me is not a terrible book. It should amuse and entertain. It’s great fault lies in not realising its potential. As for whether or not its worth reading. Yes, but don’t spend your money on it. Borrow someone else’s copy and satisfy yourself as to the merits of this much needed attempt to cast Donald J Trump in his well-earned role of arch-clown.
Sult scale rating: 6.5 out of 10. This book has some decent segments which will raise a smile and perhaps elicit a chuckle. Sadly though, it lacks the imagination and finesse to truly parody Donald Trump.
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