An Exclusive Interview with the Authors of 'My First Presidentiary: A Scrapbook by George W. Bush


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ANY COMMENTS ON THE BUSH PRESIDENCY THUS FAR?

John Warner: Blurg.

Kevin Guifoile: I like the hats. I think any president who can bring fashionable new headgear to the Washington elite is doing okay.

WHY'D YOU WRITE THE BOOK?

JW: Well, in short because they asked us and it sounded like fun, so we said 'yes.' Slightly longer version is that Mike Colton from Modern Humorist took an idea for a book based on some work Kevin and I did during the convention to Crown with whom they had a two book deal (the 2nd book will be released in the fall). Crown was interested in the pitch and asked if we could do it in three weeks and--not really knowing any better--we said 'yes'. We started the weekend after Bush was declared the winner and delivered the manuscript on January 4th.

KG: The timetable was such that there wasn't really any time to think about it. Even if we hadn't been sure we wanted to write the book, we would have had to start writing it anyway because by the time we decided we wanted to do it, there wouldn't have been time to pull it off. We wrote the book in much the same way you'd save a toddler from the path of an oncoming train. But funnier.

HOW WAS IT WORKING TOGETHER, SHARING AUTHORSHIP?

JW: It actually works out perfectly for several reasons. We'd done some work together before (the aforementioned diaries and 'The Britney Papers' and while the writing on those projects was separate (i.e., John would do the diary one day, Kevin the next,) we found our sensibilities for what's funny are pretty similar. For the book, we had to trade stuff around more since everything was written in George's hand (Kevin is George's handwriting and did the drawings) so that required more coordination, but it also eases some burden knowing that Kevin is writing away even when I'm watching Buffy.

KG: Basically I wrote the book and John wrote episode recaps for all the Buffys I missed. 'Buffy and Riley had a fight. Willow finally perfected her sunshine spells.' That sort of thing.

DESCRIBE THE CONTENT OF THE BOOK -- THE JOKES AND DRAWINGS -- A BIT MORE.

KG: The central gag is that the President is nine years old and he's surrounded by all of these grown-ups: Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, CondiRice, etc. I should clarify that: He has the experiences of a 50-something-year-old, but his methods of expressing himself are more like a child's. And he's completely unconcerned with weighty matters of state. Some of the pages are homework assignments George has been given to help him prepare to be leader of the free world. Some are letters to the eight-year-old pen pal (Hector) in Mexico that Condoleezza Rice has set him up with so he can learn about foreign affairs. There are also memos to his staff which are always accompanied with crayon drawings of Barbra Streisand or cool military moonbases or his new invention: 'The Executionator'. The humor is as much about pop-culture as it is politics: One of George's letters to his pen pal is all about how much he loves Jerry Orbach. I don't remember why. We just thought that was really funny.

WHAT OTHER INTERVIEWS/PUBLICITY HAVE YOU LINED UP? WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS TO MARKET THE BOOK?

JW: Modern Humorist has set up a dedicated website to the book (www.georgewscrapbook.com) which has links to some new material we've done as well as some older, Bush centered humor. You can also sign up for regular emails that George writes, updating everyone on how he thinks things are going. I also have mimes follow me everywhere I go which tends to attract attention, but thus far hasn't done much for the book.

We've done some print and web interviews, and there should be some TV as well. We plan on doing appearances/signings around New York and Chicago and maybe elsewhere as well.

If we can't be interviewed by Katie Couric we'd at least like her to stroke our hair and tell us everything is going to be okay.KG: I don't have mimes following me, but there's usually more than one
insurance investigator back there.

HOW DO YOU THINK THE BOOK WILL DO?

JW: It's a cliche, but I think it's impossible to say. It seems like everyone who sees it likes it and thus far there's a hunger for Bush-related humor. We do think it's a bit different from some of the other humor books out there, and we have the benefit of Modern Humorist promoting the book as much as humanly possible.

Of course, on the other hand, by March, Bush could be on his way to the most successful Presidency in modern memory and we'll get stoned to death for even daring to question his leadership and intelligence.

KG: I hope that people just think funny is funny and that dancing-on-Al-Gore's-metaphorical-grave conservatives will find it just as funny as wishing-a-Pinto-carrying-Ralph- Nader-would-back-into-a-matchstick-factory liberals. Probably not, though.

WHAT IS MODERN HUMORIST'S ROLE IN ALL THIS? WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT MODERN HUMORIST? AT MCSWEENEY'S?

JW: MH is essentially the Editor/Producer of the book with Kevin and I as the writers and illustrators. It's presented under the auspices of MH. MH staff contributed ideas, many of which ended up in the final version. Mike Colton edited everything.

The Contributing Editor position at MH is largely ceremonial, as Kevin and I just provide content to the website, and travel to New York twice yearly to shave MH senior writer, Noam Weinstein's back.

Pretty much the same thing at McSweeney's, although for McSwy's we also sometimes do some screening of submissions, as well as travelling the country lecturing on proper dental care.

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON CURRENTLY? WHAT IS YOUR LONG-TERM PLAN/HOPE AS A WRITER?

JW: I'm always working on several things. My writing life divides pretty cleanly between humor and fiction writing. In the fiction arena, I'm working on a novel, the first 700 words or so of which will appear in the next issue of McSweeney's (out in March) accompanied by a soundtrack from They Might Be Giants. My goal with the novel is to make it good and try to find someone who's interested in publishing it, and then I'll start writing another one and do it all over again.

For humor, that's just something that I've done as ideas and opportunities present themselves. I'd like to do a book of the Encyclopedia Brown parodies if the law allows. I like to write things that interest me, and thus far, that's what I've done. I'm certain Kevin and I will continue to work on projects together as well.

KG: I finished my first novel (a satirical caper sort of thingy) last summer, but I have yet to find anyone who will set it to music. Or even read it, for that matter. I divide my time pretty equally between deciding whether to procrastinate on selling that book, or to procrastinate on starting a brand new one.

WHEN IS THE BOOK DUE OUT? WHERE WILL IT BE DISTRIBUTED? IS IT AVAILABLE ONLY THROUGH AMAZON.COM, OR IS SIMPLY PRE-PURCHASE ORDERS?

JW: The publication date is March 27th, although we're told to expect the book in stores somewhat sooner, or later, or right on that date. It will be available in all the usual 'Borders and Noble' book-selling places, and possibly in some of the less-usual book places, as well. It's currently available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com as a pre-order. We encourage people to pre-order because of our ongoing feud with Mark Twain (see www.myfirstpresidentiary.com).