David Mamet Drew This Bird Cartoon for The Hollywood Reporter
The Pulitzer-winning 'Glengarry Glen Ross' playwright shares his creative process and talks the 2016 election: "It's like watching a two-year-long car crash."
A version of this story first appeared in the April 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
David Mamet is best known as a provocative, Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist and director, but it was his best friend, the late Shel Silverstein, who turned him on to cartooning. The Glengarry Glen Ross writer has released two books of his drawings. He's currently working on a new book — an illustrated field guide to "unfortunate animals." The Hollywood Reporter recently chatted with Mamet about cartooning, politics and life in "the People's Republic of Santa Monica."
So, most people know you as a playwright, essayist and film director. But you're an avid cartoonist as well.
I've actually done a vast amount of cartooning in my life, though I can't draw worth beans. My best friend in the world was Shel Silverstein. He got me started cartooning a long time ago. I did several cartoon books. One was called The Trials of Roderick Spode, "The Human Ant" and [another was] Tested on Orphans. I'm doing a couple of other cartoon books.
What's the inspiration behind your THR contribution?
I've been working on a book with the comedian Jonathan Katz. He's been my friend for 50 years. So we're working on a book together where he did the text, and I did the drawings. It's a book of "unfortunate animals." Things like the Good Dane and the Anti-Social Butterfly [and] the Yak of All Trades, Master of None. One is a Bottled-Water Spaniel. I came up with this extra cartoon, and it doesn't quite fit in that book; it's too specific to our racket. So I thought it should be seen.
You're a fairly political guy. What do you make of the presidential election so far?
What presidential election?
Well, the campaigns on both sides.
I did another cartoon. I sent it to The Wall Street Journal, and they said they like it, but they don't do cartoons. It's a picture of the outline of the United States. It's called "The China Shop." And under, it says, "Wanted: A Bull."
Should I extrapolate from there what you think of them?
As we used to say in England, "All of them are no better than they should be."
Have you thrown your weight behind any single candidate? Do you plan to?
I think I'll probably vote because I like to vote, being a citizen. I like Carly Fiorina, but apparently she's out of the race now.
Are you a never-Trumper?
My wife told me if I ever said anything ever again about politics, she's going to leave me, as much as I enjoy the subject. It's like watching a two-year-long car crash.
You attended a fundraiser for Ted Cruz, didn't you?
Did I? Yes, I did! I liked him very much.
What did you guys talk about?
He talked about Glengarry Glen Ross. I said, "Hi, Mr. Cruz, pleasure to meet you." He said, "Oh, I love your work. I've used a lot of the ideas in Glengarry Glen Ross in talking to people while I was governing. In talking about the Senate and politics and all of that stuff."
No, not all all.
Like which ideas? "Always Be Closing?"
He mentioned that. He mentioned a lot of stuff from the play. The interesting thing to me about Ted Cruz is, everybody that one talks to, they say, "I don't like him," and you say, "Oh, well why?" And they can't tell you.
I think we've found the secret blueprint to his campaign. The reason he's done so well.
I spent a lot of time reading about politics and political theory. To me, it all comes down to the Constitution. It's so brilliant because the essence of the Constitution is: "Listen, they're a bunch of liars and thugs, and so are we." So, as a dramatist, it appeals to my thuggish side.
What about Justice Antonin Scalia's death? Did that hit you hard? Did you side with a lot of his opinions?
Are we doing an interview? Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. I can't do that. You're a nice Jewish boy, and so am I. We can sit down and have a couple beers and tell each other about our political opinions. Most are bullshit. Mark Twain once said, "I never lost a political argument ... and I never won one."
You've been a good sport. I would take you up on it.
Excellent. Superb. Well, if you ever get over to the Westside and the Socialist People's Republic of Santa Monica, make sure when you cross over into Brentwood you leave any kind of controversial opinions you might have at the door because they're going to be checking you. There's a little monument at Sixth Street that says "Entering Brentwood." I always thought they should add to the sign: "Entering Brentwood: Through these portals, past the stupidest f—ing Jews in the world." Well, if I were king, right?