One of the hits of last year's Festival of the Arts Boca, Emmy-winning "Daily Show" writer Kevin Bleyer is a charming fount of political satire, and in his latest venture, he takes aim at one of our country's sacred cows: the Constitution. Me The People: An Order To Form a More Perfect Union will be published later this year by Random House. Bleyer will be appearing at 4 p.m. Saturday at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center to discuss the book and much more. Tickets are $25 to $40.
Your new book is about rewriting the American Constitution. What is it about our founding document that needs to be rewritten?
Why did I rewrite the Constitution? Simple. Thomas Jefferson told me to. Jefferson said that every constitution should be rewritten every 19 years. So by my math—actually by Thomas Jefferson’s math, which I believe is the same math—the Constitution should have been rewritten 11 times already. Frankly, I feel bad I’m only getting around to it now.
Plus, I’m a simple man with simple ideas and simple ways to express them, so I thought I maybe could be helpful. Let’s be honest, the Constitution is pretty complicated. Patrick Henry said the Constitution was “of such an intricate and complicated nature, that no man on this earth can know its real operation.” And since I don’t know any aliens willing to come down to explain it to us, I figured the task fell to me.
It's pretty funny stuff, I’m sure, but it could also be controversial. Are you prepared for a blowback, particularly from strict constitutionalists?
Well, the entire point of the book, aside from hopefully amusing as many people as possible while, incidentally, solving all of the country’s problems, is to encourage people to learn what’s actually in the Constitution—rather than just claim to know. Anyone who reads the book will quickly understand that it intends only to inspire reverence for the Constitution at a time when so few Americans have even read the Constitution. That may be naïve and pollyannaish, but it’s hardly controversial, I’d say.
What was it like actually reading the entire document? I think you’re owed at least a cookie for this accomplishment.
Reading the entire Constitution isn’t that bad actually. I recommend it. It’s only 7,000 words, including the amendments, so it shouldn’t take more than a month or two. And just to keep you interested, I won’t tell you how it ends. I wouldn’t want to ruin the big surprise amendment where Benjamin Franklin is murdered by Alexander Hamilton. (Whoops -- sorry about that.)
Do you have a favorite amendment?
Depends on when you ask me. On a Friday night, my favorite amendment would have to be the repeal of Prohibition. On a Monday morning, I imagine it’s the First Amendment, since I enjoy writing political comedy without worrying if I’ll be incarcerated, or pilloried, or banished for it. And on a Wednesday afternoon, I appreciate the right to a jury of my peers, for reasons I can’t go into here upon advice of counsel. (I was framed, I swear.)
You are returning to the Boca Festival by popular demand. Last year’s talk was a sort of “getting to know you” presentation. What new material do you have planned for your address this year?
I promised last year that after I finished the grand project of rewriting the Constitution, I’d return with a full report of my findings. And I’m a man of my word. So this year will be more about James Madison and George Washington than about Kevin Bleyer. And maybe what James Madison and George Washington think of Kevin Bleyer.
Which political candidate or personality is most ripe for comedy right now, and why?
It often feels like an embarrassment of riches. At some point, you start asking yourself the opposite question: Which of the candidates or political personalitiesaren’t doing something ridiculous today? That’s often a more efficient way to figure out what or who to focus on. It’s a process of comic elimination.