Famed Writer Andy Borowitz Is the Sovereign of Satire
Comedian Andy Borowitz opens up on the Tarrytown adaptation of his hit column, The Borowitz Report.
It might sound a bit hyperbolic to call Andy Borowitz one of the most popular political satirists alive, but then again he’s got the CV to prove it. The comedian, writer, and parodist created hit shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, won the very first National Press Award for Humor, and boasts millions of social media followers across the globe. Oh, and he also created one of the biggest syndicated satirical columns ever produced, The Borowitz Report, which recently moved to The New Yorker, where it quickly became the most viewed feature in the publication’s 93-year history.
On March 10, the funnyman will be bringing his popular column to life on the Tarrytown Music Hall stage with The Borowitz Report Live. According to Borowitz, the act is a natural evolution of his past work. “I’ve always had a live act over the years, doing standup and various live performances, and [this tour] sort of grew out of a show I did last fall as part of the New Yorker Festival,” he shares. “It was almost an evening of therapy. I did some standup, but I also took a lot of questions from the audience, and what I noticed was that the desire and the thirst for what the audience would regard as sanity had really increased.”
Borowitz points to the 2016 election as a turning point not only in his own creative work, but in the demands of comedy in general. “The whole tenor has kind of changed,” says Borowitz, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, as the youngest of three children. “People are actually looking to comedy to tell them: Am I alone in thinking this is completely nuts?”
As a result, Borowitz’s live show — which will also feature a Q&A with audience members — has had to evolve, as well. “The evening has turned from just me getting up and making people laugh, to really digging down and attempting to figure out where we are as a country,” says Borowitz. “People ask questions like, ‘How do you get through the day?’ And I sort of feel like I’m Dr. Phil now. And actually, Dr. Phil might be secretary of state when Oprah’s president, so I shouldn’t disparage Dr. Phil in any way,” he jokes.
When he isn’t on the road, Borowitz stays exceedingly busy. He often hosts The Moth, a popular literary podcast, and has covered political conventions, hosted the National Book Awards, taught screenwriting, and appeared as a guest on several television shows. In 2011, The Library of America even asked the Harvard grad to edit a collection of the 50 Funniest American Writers.
“I’m not an activist, per se, but I’m interested in people having enough energy that they’re not so depressed and despairing that they just stay in bed.”
But for Borowitz, who made his name with his incredibly biting pen, live performances provide a rare opportunity to interact with many readers. ”I can sit at home and write my column and that’s a more prepared, polished thing,” says Borowitz, who has penned no fewer than eight successful books. “But the whole point of me doing a live show is that it’s a conversation with the audience. You’re listening to them, getting stuff from them, and playing with them. And that, to me, is the fun of this, which is going into a place where I’ve never been before.”
Even Westchester audiences, with which the New York City-based Borowitz is eminently familiar, end up eliciting some major surprises. “When I do a show at a place like Tarrytown, I know what people are going to want to talk about, and I have a pretty good sense of what they have in mind,” he notes. “But I don’t really know which way the evening is going to go, and that element of unpredictability is what’s really fun. For the audience at least, it’s a much more dynamic experience than if I just got up and recited 90 minutes of material.”
Borowitz hopes the end result of this interplay is to encourage people to take action, whether on a political or a personal scale. “I’m not an activist per se, but I’m interested in people having enough energy that they’re not so depressed and despairing that they just stay in bed,” explains Borowitz. “I think if comedy gets them to say, ‘Okay, well now I want to do something. I want to volunteer for a congressional campaign, or I want to write a check to the International Rescue Committee.’ That’ll be positive, and I think there’s some value in that.”
However, this doesn’t mean that Borowitz assumes he can magically sway every dissenting opinion. “I’m not a big believer in comedy changing people’s minds. I think that’s where some comedians, especially people who talk about politics, overstate their importance in the scheme of things,” he says. “I’m a big believer in preaching to the choir. Comedy may be able to influence some people, but mainly what I’m trying to do is energize the people who already agree with me to get out there and do something to change the world a