Andy Borowitz is known for his sense of humor, which provides both the canvas and the frame for his eighth book, “Profiles in Ignorance,” a wittily alarming polemic that tracks the evolution of American politics from grounds for gravitas to festival of idiocy. “Over the past 50 years, what some of our most prominent politicians didn’t know could fill a book,” writes the veteran New Yorker contributor and creator of the touring comedy show “Make America Not Embarrassing Again.”
So how did Borowitz evolve from funny guy to chronicler of absurd governmental high jinks? In a phone interview, he explained, “When I sat down to write, I was thinking from a comedy point of view: If I just put together all the funny things Dan Quayle and people like him have said and done, it’ll just be a hilarious romp.” He went on, “But as I started researching, I realized, this is a laugh/cry subject. When you look at the consequences of what ignorance has wrought, it’s really not funny at all. It’s tragic. So a thinking person — and I’m flattering myself by saying that I’m that — can’t just make fun of politicians and say, ‘Oh it’s all just a big laugh, let’s be jolly about it,’ without also saying, ‘Wait a minute, what is this doing to our country?’”
Borowitz grabs readers by the ear and walks them through the stages of ignorance, from ridicule (in this section, he profiles Ronald Reagan and Dan Quayle) to acceptance (see: George W. Bush and Sarah Palin) to celebration (starring Donald J. Trump and, as Borowitz puts it, “wannabes like Ted Cruz and Ron DeSantis — who, despite being graduates of our nation’s finest universities, strenuously try to outdumb him).” Yes, Borowitz admits, Democrats have also produced their fair share of dopes and ignoramuses, but for now he recognizes them as “supporting players in our national pageant of stupidity.”
Before you look into Canadian citizenship, Borowitz ends on a hopeful note, putting his own spin on the idea of thinking globally and acting locally. For his part, the Cleveland native accepted an invitation to join the board of his library in Hanover, N.H., where he lives now. He explained, “Ordinarily I would say that would be a nightmare because I would just be rolling my eyes and exhaling heavily like Al Gore during the debates and being contemptuous and sarcastic and everyone would hate me. I realized that libraries are now political because people want to keep certain books out of our children’s hands, so if I really want to participate in democracy and not just talk about it, then I had to say yes.”
Elisabeth Egan is an editor at the Book Review and the author of “A Window Opens.”
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