Aristotle once said that “Man is by nature a political animal,” by which he meant we are the only animals capable of reason and speech. Humorist Fran Lebowitz — author of “Metropolitan Life” and “Social Studies” as well as the focus of Martin Scorsese’s 2010 documentary “Public Speaking” — is perfect proof that we are more than capable of both.
“Donald Trump is not my fault,” she asserts during a recent engagement at Tarrytown Music Hall. She’s referring to her rejoinder at events in the last few weeks when “foreigners,” as she puts it slyly, found out she’s American and immediately asked about the most controversial Republican candidate. As a Democrat, Lebowitz discusses Trump in the most humorous of terms but also acknowledges that the possibility that he could become president of the United States frightens her.
“In certain ways, it’s really amusing. But it would actually be really amusing if it wasn’t a really important job. I don’t find it that amusing, because I’m old enough to think — the president. That’s an important job.”
But she takes shots at her side of the political aisle, too. About the Clintons — who like Trump have strong ties to WAG country — she says, “I don’t like them. I never did.” And after a pause, as if readying herself for the onslaught of audience disdain, she goes on to say, “Bernie Sanders — yes, he’s adorable. And I agree with him on the things he talks about. I myself am also a liberal, old-fashioned, New Deal Democrat and if the United States was the only country in the world, I would vote for Bernie Sanders. But it is not the only country in the world and he seems to be pretty much unaware of that.”
So no, she is not thrilled with her options on the other side of the political spectrum either. “First of all, he’s a senator from Vermont. OK? Vermont — also adorable.”
Lebowitz doesn’t limit herself to discussing the political candidates and how she feels about them. The whole game of politics is confusing to her. In discussing caucuses, and how they work, she wonders aloud why small states like Iowa and New Hampshire are chosen to be representative of the country in determining who could be a strong candidate.
“When I watched the returns of the Iowa caucus, and I saw that some of the differences were like 2,000 votes, I thought, ‘There’s 2,000 people on my block.’”
She acknowledges that she’s recently come to terms with the idea that she’ll probably never fully understand how the process of a caucus works, and the audience cheers in agreement.
Politics isn’t the only topic about which Lebowitz has strong opinions — which she delivers in a matter-of-fact way that has the entire audience roaring with laughter. In speaking about the steep cost of living in New York City and Mayor Bill de Blasio — as well as millennials, race issues, the institution of marriage, the legalization of marijuana and even her thoughts on strollers — it’s clear that she’s not only aware of the world around her but has put a lot of thought into it. Perhaps that’s because she has somehow managed to keep technology — smartphones, computers, tablets and the like — at bay. “It’s gone too far. I can’t deal with it. I’m not catching up,” she says of the way technology has grown.
Or maybe that quick thinking and wit is the result of a life spent reading pretty much every book she’s come across. “I never understand when people say they don’t have time to read. I don’t have time to do anything else.” She figures she’s got about 10,000 books in her apartment. “I know, because I’ve moved them.”
Either way, Lebowitz has plenty to say and doesn’t shy away from any particular subject. She delivers her thoughts with a quiet self-assurance that keeps the audience hanging on her every word and gasping for breath between bursts of laughter.
The direction of the conversation returns to politics, more specifically, the newly open seat on the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Lebowitz had a recurring role as a judge on the long-running TV series “Law & Order,” and, as such, feels qualified to take on the Supreme Court. A political animal through and through, Lebowitz shrugs and says, “I’m available.”