Andy Borowitz discusses his book Profiles in Ignorance at the McCarter

Although retired since 2014, I still relish opportunities to teach, write, and share opinions.

With his signature wit and insight, comedian and New Yorker magazine satirist Andy Borowitz delved into questions such as Why have American politics deteriorated intellectually over the last 50 years? How have the mass media encouraged the election of ignorant leaders? And how can we change course? He discussed his New York Times/Washington Post/Wall Street Journal bestseller, Profiles in Ignorance: How America’s Politicians Got Dumb and Dumber with Princeton Professor Emerita Anne-Marie Slaughter on May 19, 2023, at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre.

Mr. Borowitz couldn’t have found a more receptive audience, since most of the audience had a distinct academic air about them, meaning that they looked as if they read the New Yorker as well as books, and kept up with current events. If you wondered how a writer could also have an engaging stage personality, fear not, because the author was also a superb raconteur spinning his own stories as well as charming his host, Professor Slaughter. 

It’s always disarming, at least for this writer, to go to his seat without a program. None was provided, since both people on stage undoubtedly rehearsed their time, but doubtless strayed often onto new tangents and thoughts. Dr. Slaughter often laughed out loud at something Mr.Borowitz said, indicating that this was a rather freewheeling conversation. 

Andy Borowitz clearly acted on stage before, since he appeared totally at ease as he breezed humorously from his upbringing in Cleveland to attending Harvard, to working at TV Guide, to the New Yorker. 

A few of his anecdotes dealt with his memory of Cleveland’s mayor setting his hair afire with a blowtorch, to lengthy discussions on how Ronald Reagan really started the downward spiral into ignorance. He had scathing remarks about the junior President Bush, President Clinton (whom he said always sent aides to the Reagan Presidential Library to research what Reagan might have said on a subject he would speak about), to the much maligned Gerald Ford. He praised President Obama as being one of the smart Presidents (while noting that Dr. Slaughter had worked in the Obama White House). Of course, the author had much to say about Presidents Trump and Biden. 

The evening went quickly by until Dr. Slaughter announced questions would be entertained from the audience. Sheepishly at first, the questioners became several deep at both orchestra-level microphones as well as those in the balcony. One of the questions posed asked Mr. Borowitz should we re-elect the aged Biden? With skill and aplomb, he answered, well, let’s look at the opposition. He discussed Biden’s opposition in detail, as he spoke about Governor Ron DeSantis and his anti- LGBTQ+ legislation record which continues, and undoubtedly will continue, as he interrogates books, schools, teachers, Drag Queen Story Times, and his “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, and his preoccupation fighting the Disney Corporation. Only recently, Disney announced that their expansion plans, killed by the governor, would also kill 2,000 jobs for Orlando. Borowitz continued with the re-election of Trump, saying that anyone would vote for Ursula the Sea Witch before any Republican candidate. This last bon mot evoked peals of laughter from the audience as well as applause.

The stage presentation ended, all too soon, to allow the Meet and Greet aspect of the evening where people could purchase the book and have it signed by the author. The crowds for the Meet and Greet were hundreds deep, making it almost impossible to exit the building, as the queue extended into the lobby.

Profiles in Ignorance by Andy Borowitz is available at Giovani’s Room, and at libraries under the call number 320.973 BOR for those of a distinctly academic bent.

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