Alec Baldwin and Michael Wolff, two New Yorkers of a similar age who have found a lucrative, mid-to-late-career resurgence thanks to President Donald Trump, both confessed to having acute Trump fatigue during a joint appearance tonight at Town Hall.
“Are you sick of Trump?” the Saturday Night Live star asked the Fire and Fury author during the pair’s joint appearance tonight at New York’s Town Hall. “Oh my God,” Wolff said. “You don’t want to hear about Trump again?” Baldwin followed. “If only” came Wolff’s reply. Baldwin confessed to sometimes looking at the orange Trump wig in the SNL dressing room and feeling drained. “I do have this fatigue,” he said. “I do sit there and say, ‘I don’t want to be this motherf–ker again.'”
Wolff predicted that Trump, who has excoriated the book and tried to sue to stop its publication, would eventually come around and claim credit for its mega selling status. Asked yet again by Baldwin about his appetite to further delve into Trumpian times, Wolff shrugged, “Sometimes, one is called.”
Becoming more serious a moment later, responding to Baldwin’s question about Trump’s effect on democracy and the pair’s role in examining that, he said, “When you do this, you kind of become part of it. I didn’t feel myself looking at this from a big lens. It was very much up close. … I’m not thinking about the country.” In creating a portrait of a dysfunctional White House, he added, “What I felt most of all that everybody there was tainted by this, felt tainted by this and believed that they would not come out ahead, that this was a net loss. All of the people around Trump, that was the conclusion they came to.”
The expressions of mutual disdain for Trump came at the end of a meandering, hour-plus conversation that seemed to please most ticket buyers but produced scant new insight for anyone who has followed the news about Wolff’s book. The event doubled as a taping for Baldwin’s podcast on WNYC, Here’s the Thing, which will air the talk in a forthcoming episode.
Wolff’s turbulent appearance on Morning Joe came up only in a brief exchange toward the end. Asked if the contentious on-air segment had been “staged,” Wolff demurred, “It’s cable television, they get paid by the confrontation. …. In public life, you used to run away from conflict. Now, you seek it out.” It was a far more moderate tone than his angry Twitter outburst about host Mika Brzezinski’s attacks. “This isn’t a Nikki Haley question,” Baldwin reassured Wolff in his windup to the query, referencing the U.N. ambassador he had insinuated in print and in media appearances has had an affair with the president.
Baldwin also did not ask about Wolff’s journalistic methods, ask him to explain how he gained access to the White House or even prompt Wolff to reflect on the book’s effects on a larger level.
Unlike his coy appearance last Friday on Real Time with Bill Maher, where he alluded to the coded Haley nod that is in the book, he told Baldwin he had no regrets and wouldn’t add even another semicolon. “Everything is as it should be,” he smiled.
As is his podcast wont, Baldwin seemed more interested in getting the roundabout background of how his interview subject got to where is now. Sometimes that bears fruit, but the journey with Wolff took half an hour to get through his peripatetic career, which started with his failed attempt to write a novel in his 20s to making media deals during the first dotcom boom to eventually settling into the media beat at various magazines.
Because of Baldwin’s unique point of view as an actor and prominent New Yorker, he managed a few memorable asides. He derided Trump as a “drive-by figure in New York society” and said he had come to see Richard Nixon “as Adlai Stevenson” compared with the current president. He also ribbed Wolff for Fire and Fury‘s cover, which made it look like a “cheap” movie prop that resembles Baldwin’s broad impersonation on SNL, which he said involves him looking like he is “trying to suck the windshield out of a car.”
Picking up on the cover point, he asked, “Was some of this rushed to some degree?” As with the Morning Joe question, he prefaced it by conceding having rushed through the writing of last four chapters of his 2017 memoir, Nevertheless.
Wolf, as he did all night, was able to offer an economical, wafer-thin explanation. “I’m a fast writer,” he said.