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The unlikely duo, who had never met before their conversation onstage at the Los Angeles club Largo at the Coronet, discussed Penn’s upcoming satirical novel, which he described as “literature of the ludicrous” and is a follow-up to his 2018 book Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff. Though the story is not directly political — it follows an international assassin who kills elderly people with a mallet — Penn said he was driven to write the first book ahead of Trump’s election.
“As it turns out, leading up to the election of 2016, I was going to fucking kill myself if I didn’t find a way out of just focusing on what the hell was happening,” Penn told Offerman. “So I decided to take everything I thought and felt and exaggerated it and exaggerated the language in ways that would keep me giggling through one of the ugliest periods of conscious participation the country has ever had.”
For further inspiration, Penn revealed that he writes the books in his house’s den, which “has a fireplace in it, and might or might not have a model representing our current president hanging from a noose. And it may or may not have a button on that model where can you press it and hear quotations in his voice. And that’s where I write.”
Offerman also revealed that Penn calls out Fox News host Laura Ingraham by name in the book, while only vaguely referencing other real-life figures, to which the star responded, “You can be doing a fictional mob thing, and through the image of the mob there are some men. And then there’s the devil, so the devil is the devil.”
The two actors dove further into politics during the hourlong conversation, with Offerman questioning whether the Trump administration is exposing the country’s underlying issues, and if “eventually we will look at this as a good thing? We were fooling ourselves into a sense of comfort and easy denial, going, ‘Oh, I think everything’s going pretty good, we elected a black guy, we’re pretty awesome.’ Then suddenly the wheels fell off and we’re driving on the hubs and we have to fix things a lot more than we thought.”
Penn said he thinks 18- to 20-year-olds will start, and have already begun, a revolution in this country, declaring, “I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that Donald Trump is going to win the presidency next time and that’s because I’m getting a sense that it’s going be an exponential jump in young people who are going to say, ‘No thanks.'”
Elsewhere in the conversation, Penn, who described himself as “fueled by rage,” talked about taking a step back from acting and how writing fiction has become his primary passion.
“If there’s a director with a great script, who I love the director and it’s great material and they want to pay me and it shoots somewhere I want to be, I’m great for two days of work. I can still enjoy acting in that situation,” he teased. “There’s nothing I want to do more than just keep writing.”
Which Penn will continue to do, despite the less-than-stellar reviews for his first Bob Honey book. In fact, he said he was fueled by the negative feedback.
“Yes, my first favorite food would’ve been the Pulitzer Prize. My second favorite is what I got, which is all of these pig-shit, asshole, envious [critics] who wrote their own autobiography in the criticism of what I did, and reading between the lines, it was the greatest affirmation of anything I’ve ever done,” Penn said. “They definitely, for a large degree, are responsible for me not continuing the laziness from the first book for so long, and definitely, definitely once I read those things I said, ‘I’m writing another one.'”
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