This morning, I was greeted by a message from my editor, “Do you want to write about the Trump movie that just showed up?” I had yet to check Twitter (something I’m trying to do less and less), so I had literally no idea what he was talking about. (For about 30 seconds, I thought this was a real movie from 1988.) But, the more I looked into it, the better this sounded: a fake 50-minute movie from 1988 starring Johnny Depp as Donald Trump. Yeah, this sounds like something I will like.
Funny or Die Presents Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal: The Movie is exactly the kind of thing that the 2016 version of the Internet loves – it was a secret, it has a lot of famous people in it, it has Jacob Tremblay in it, it’s about Donald Trump – which leads to titles like “The Art of the Deal with Johnny Depp as Donald Trump Is Perfection,” or whatever.
And you know what? I watched the whole thing and it is pretty good. There’s not really a lot going on here – it pretty much all takes place in Donald Trump’s office – but it’s the small touches that make it work. I mean, I haven’t heard a reference to The Noid in quite some time, so that’s certainly something. (Domino’s really should bring back The Noid just so we can all avoid it again. It will be fun.) And it’s nice to see Gordon Shumway getting some work. Also, if Kenny Loggins’ The Art of the Deal theme song were available on iTunes, I’d probably buy it. Again, these are all things I like. So, why couldn’t I enjoy this?
It’s because Donald Trump now officially has delegates. Donald Trump has won a primary.
I do wonder if the creative forces behind this movie thought, “Oh, we’re gonna get him now.” Eh, probably not. But considering the timing of its release, the morning after the New Hampshire primary, I bet there was a glimmer of hope that something like this could damage Trump somehow, even though that seems impossible. (This is a candidate who basically called another candidate a “pussy” this week. What a world.) But now that the real Trump is inching closer and closer to a possible nomination, nothing about him makes me laugh anymore. In theory, The Art of the Deal should make me laugh, but I am out of laughs.
Yeah, yeah, I know, every week with Trump comes a new round of declarations that, “This isn’t funny anymore.” It hasn’t been funny for awhile. It wasn’t funny when Trump hosted SNL (a move that caused more damage to SNL this season than anyone would have ever possibly guessed) and it’s just not fun watching Johnny Depp “it’s gonna be yuge” his way through The Art of the Deal — a movie that, in any other situation, would be funny.
I know it’s crazy, but The Art of the Deal made me sad. It made me sad because it depicts Trump as a person who just wanted to buy the Taj Mahal Casino from Merv Griffin. I miss this Donald Trump, the one we didn’t have to think about every day. Even though Trump has been leading the New Hampshire polls for some time, it didn’t seem real until last night. But it’s real now, and no Funny or Die videos are going to stop him.
In 1980, at a show in Tempe, Arizona on a tour promoting his new album, The River, Bruce Springsteen told the crowd, “I don’t know what you guys think about what happened last night, but I think it’s pretty frightening.” This was on the day after Ronald Reagan was elected president. (Reagan!) I guess that’s how I feel today. This is really happening! And while watching The Art of the Deal, even though I want to laugh and I know that what I’m looking at is funny, I just can’t make the unsettling feeling that none of this is a joke anymore go away.
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.