@AlecBaldwin: Acting is a job, in the end, like any job. It’s an unusual one, but it’s a job. Sometimes, a bit of art may fly in the window. Now and then.
What people do on their computers in the privacy of their own rooms is between them, their consciences, and an invisible robot god who sees everything. Young people understand this best — the potential consequences of documentation — but that’s just because we’ve been through more trial and error, not because we don’t have idiotic impulses.
The Internet looks different at night, like an illuminated glory hole. When you put something in it, like a sad-but-true statement about your biggest failings or a picture of your semi-erect penis (same thing?), it’s best to imagine what it will look like in the cold light of day.
Which brings us to Alec Baldwin’s new Twitter account,1 which sounds hilariously similar to the dual parody accounts Wise Kaplan and Cranky Kaplan, caricatures of former New York Observer editor Peter Kaplan that are a lovingly cruel skewering of the inner mind of a rich, horny, old white man in his twilight years bestriding Manhattan print-media culture.2
How much of Alec Baldwin’s Twitter is Alec Baldwin doing “Alec Baldwin”? Which at this point is really Jack Donaghy, Tina Fey’s kind but adroitly exaggerated conception of what the “Alec Baldwin” persona is like.
The two Kaplan feeds pine for a New York that may have never existed except in the minds of all the people who move to Manhattan to find it, including Woody Allen. Alec Baldwin’s Twitter has a similar Proustian yearning to it, but all the more poignant and embarrassing (read: interesting) because it’s real.
Some people are just naturals at holding court. Alec Baldwin definitely qualifies there, which is why he was always such a great Saturday Night Live host and why his monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross remains the gold standard for holding public attention. 3 The thing about people who are good at holding court is that once they start holding court it can be impossible to make them stop. And not always, but sometimes they say something that makes their audience facepalm.
David Mamet’s “Always Be Closing” speech is a show-stealing number in an already perfect play.
Here are a few of the things Alec Baldwin enjoys: party games, Pilates, what Alec Baldwin is eating, cryptic jokes with the Baldwin siblings in a private brother language, the Rolling Stones, getting stranded on boats, tweeting like he’s somewhere deep in thought and is providing you a small opening through which to see into his brain — Being John Malkovich-style, politics, asking rhetorical questions, faux-slang, and Fort Lauderdale.
And here are some of Alec Baldwin’s tweets, in nonchronological order:
@AlecBaldwin: Jesus drives a candy apple red 68 GTO
@AlecBaldwin: There does seem to be a different standard for men and women.
@AlecBaldwin: I want to be a Luchador.
@AlecBaldwin: And Julia Roberts is my date
@AlecBaldwin: The older I get, I want the opposite.
@AlecBaldwin: Mine is Barbra Streisand to sing AND tell stories
@AlecBaldwin: Ok?it’s a party.
@AlecBaldwin: And as he left the stage, issued his famous warning.
@AlecBaldwin: Pilates has saved me
@AlecBaldwin: OK…you have your football, we have ours. Ours is with sexy cheerleaders, interminable commercials, and the forward pass.
@AlecBaldwin: Americans , too many of them, seem to only care about sex and taxes.
@AlecBaldwin: …I mean, BLACK AND BLUE Is better than SOME GIRLS
@AlecBaldwin: On a more All-American, I-Love-a-Good-Time kind of note, Fort Lauderdale is cool.
@AlecBaldwin: @DanielBaldwin … Huffin’ on a hawkstick
@AlecBaldwin: …..Hemingway, F. Scott, Proust, Joe Orton, Mamet,
@AlecBaldwin: I sing like I golf. And I golf like I speak German. And I…….
@AlecBaldwin: Drunken HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER
@AlecBaldwin: Movie making is weird.
@AlecBaldwin: Weird to spend hours essentially living other people’s lives.
What is great about Alec Baldwin, and incidentally what is great about Twitter, is his tendency to toggle between the profound and the deeply mundane, the intelligent and the absurdist. Sometimes he says something meaningful and then becomes impossible to follow immediately afterward. Sometimes he talks about music. Sometimes he asks 30 Rock trivia questions. Like a lot of celebrities on the Internet,4 he seems kind of desperately lonely.
Not just celebrities.
I am not going to say he is drunk, because who knows! But he definitely enjoys the feedback from fans. (I mean, of course he does; he’s an actor.)
Twitter is an exercise in impulse control. (Anthony Weiner failed). Life is basically an exercise in impulse control, and Twitter is just a microcosmic version of that exercise. So much of celebrity PR is preventing us from finding out what a star is really like, which is how Mel Gibson’s career lasted for so long. More exposure to something you like is not always positive since it allows you to find out what you don’t like about it. This is important in real life with real people, but fandom is in many senses meant to be shallow.
You can’t idolize the real person, because there are too many things wrong with them — celebrities aren’t supposed to be human beings. Stardom is built on fantasies and ideals, and for every surprisingly hilarious star on Twitter (Rihanna!), there are 20 famous comedians whose tweets are less funny than you might expect.
Alec Baldwin is an especially interesting case because it turns out he’s exactly like you’d think. So much so that you have to wonder if it’s a conscious put-on or a stylized public mask, or if you peeled back the chest hair and there would just be more Alec Baldwin underneath.5
The other thing about Alec Baldwin is that, like Jon Hamm in 30 Rock‘s “The Bubble” episode, he seemingly has no idea that people have paid him such attention over the years because he is so stupidly handsome. Yes, he’s also very smart and outlandishly charming, but you don’t stare because he’s smart. He mostly plays characters with impossibly forceful wills, and we admire fictional archetypes of power but are wary of them in real life.
Alec Baldwin looks like a mayor, but he’s an actor. He looks like a guy who plays politicians in movies, which is different than being a politician.6 The long connection between politics and theater is not a coincidence. Would Alec Baldwin be a good mayor? I honestly can’t say. But I am confident he would make a great narrator in a production of Our Town. People want to buy whatever an attractive person is selling because they subconsciously attribute leadership traits to a good-looking person. But if there’s anything these past few months have taught us, it’s that just because somebody looks like a leader doesn’t mean they’re necessarily fit to lead.
Although how different really, considering how often actors are elected to public office?
But then occasionally, Alec Baldwin will tweet something like, “Actually, don’t the nights, plural, pass slow,” and I’ll gasp because I hadn’t expected Twitter to give me something so beautiful and poetic. He’s misquoting a Rolling Stones song (“Moonlight Mile”) and correcting himself. It’s the kind of thing people do in conversation all the time.
Maybe the trick is imagining Alec Baldwin saying his tweets aloud in his sonorous Alec Baldwin voice. A voice that is comforting and seductive and therefore possibly a little too scary to trust, because who even knows what a voice like that might be able to talk you into. It just sounds so damn good.