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Andy Borowitz: the 24/7 go-to guy for topical humor

Andy Borowitz first published Who Moved My Soap? The CEO's Guide to Surviving in Prison in 2003. Why publish a new "Bernie Madoff Edition" now?

"I would say sheer opportunism was my motivation," Borowitz says.

Or maybe Madoff was just an irresistible target for satire, Borowitz's weapon of choice. A standup comic, writer and producer of television series (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and movies, and frequent contributor to the New Yorker and the Huffington Post, he's best known as creator of the satirical Web site BorowitzReport.com.

His Web site is a compendium of fake news stories, but Borowitz says the new book was inspired by a real article. "I get most of my news from the New York Post because I usually only have to change two or three words in a story to make it a Borowitz Report story."

The Post article reported that, as Madoff awaited sentencing for massive financial fraud, family members were looking for a guidebook for prisoners to help him prepare.

"I said, wait a minute, I have written that book," Borowitz says. "So I got in touch with Simon & Schuster and said, we could really do some service journalism here if we rerelease the book."

Who Moved My Soap? was first published during "the whole Enron-Tyco-Martha Stewart debacle, when everyone was gnashing their teeth and saying, we need more regulation, we can't let this happen ever again.

"And it's only taken us six years to go through another boom and bust cycle. The good news is I can reissue this book every six years."

The political cycle is another comedy gold mine. The election of President Barack Obama caused "a lot of dread among comedians in general," he says, "not just because some of us supported him. That doesn't matter to me; if somebody screws up, it doesn't matter whether I supported him."

But, he says, comics had gotten spoiled. "The job has changed from the days of shooting fish in a barrel. Bush was like an 8-year-long YouTube clip. Obama doesn't provide as much easy material."

Borowitz does see some potential for comedy in the fact that Obama "has such a tight lid on him. He's so formal and dignified. So he has his moments. The beer summit was pretty much the worst party I've ever seen anyone throw — these three extremely uncomfortable men with their jaunty beer mugs."

In the meantime, he says, plenty of other satirical targets have arisen. "Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, just a lot of dumb people in the media. And there's John Edwards. I like to say John Edwards thinks there are two Americas — and he has children in each one."

Borowitz says he's struck by the difference between how politicians like Edwards, Mark Sanford and John Ensign have handled their "sex sprees" and David Letterman's approach.

"If you deconstruct what he did to his wife, nothing makes it any better. But from a performance point of view, I marveled at how he handled it.

"There was a question of hypocrisy: He's made jokes about these other people. He handled that in such a brilliant way, those false starts, jokes about Clinton, about Sanford — no, he can't go there anymore.

"Like any good comedian, he made the joke on him. There's always some prig out there going 'Too soon.' It's never too soon to make fun of yourself."

Borowitz's wife, Olivia Gentile, will also be a featured author at the festival, presenting her book, Life List: A Woman's Quest for the World's Most Amazing Birds.

"It's a great book," Borowitz says. "As someone who tweets for a living, I'm filled with admiration for someone who can spend seven years researching a nonfiction book."

Who Moved My Soap? The CEO's Guide to Surviving

in Prison: Bernie Madoff Edition

By Andy Borowitz

Simon & Schuster, 96 pages, $9.95

Andy Borowitz: the 24/7 go-to guy for topical humor 10/17/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 17, 2009 5:30am]

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