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Kurt Andersen

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Kurt Andersen
Andersen at the 72nd Annual Peabody Awards (2013)
Born (1954-08-22) August 22, 1954 (age 69)
EducationWestside High School
Harvard College
  • Novelist
  • historian
  • TV writer/playwright
  • podcast/radio host
  • editor
SpouseAnne Kreamer

Kurt Andersen (born August 22, 1954) is an American writer, the author of novels and nonfiction as well as a writer for television and the theater.

He was also a co-founder of Spy magazine, as well as co-creator and for its 20-year run host of the weekly Peabody Award-winning public radio program and podcast Studio 360.[1][2]

Early life and education


Andersen was born in Omaha, Nebraska.[3] Growing up, he lived across the street from Ginni Thomas.[4] He graduated from Westside High School.[5] While a student at Harvard College, he was an editor and vice-president of the Harvard Lampoon. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard.



In 1986, with E. Graydon Carter and Thomas L. Phillips Jr., he co-founded Spy. In Spy, Andersen and Carter in 1988 coined the notable epithet "short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump" for the future U.S. president.[6]

"It's pretty safe to say," author Dave Eggers wrote in the mid-1990s, "that Spy was the most influential magazine of the 1980s. It might have remade New York's cultural landscape; it definitely changed the whole tone of magazine journalism. It was cruel, brilliant, beautifully written and perfectly designed, and feared by all. There's no magazine I know of that's so continually referenced, held up as a benchmark; and whose demise is so lamented." In 2006, novelist Christopher Buckley wrote that "Spy didn't capture the zeitgeist — it was the zeitgeist," that it was "deliciously vicious" and "despised by all the right people, primus inter pares, Donald Trump."[7] Media critic Jack Shafer wrote in 2009 that Spy was one of "a handful of 20th-century American magazines...whose glory days continue to influence editors."[8] And in a 2017 paper about Spy, Marist College journalism professor and department chair Kevin M. Lerner wrote that "a whole generation of journalists was raised with the Spy attitude ingrained not just into their writing but into their world view," and that "more than anything, Spy invented the painstakingly reported – but still funny – satirical magazine feature. It was as funny as Mad, and as well-reported as The New Yorker. " [9]

Andersen co-wrote and co-produced two hour-long prime-time Spy specials for NBC, in 1991 Spy Magazine Presents How to Be Famous, hosted by Jerry Seinfeld, and The Spy Magazine Hit List: The 100 Most Annoying and Alarming People and Events of 1992, hosted by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Andersen and his partners sold Spy in 1991, and he left the magazine in 1993; it continued publishing until 1998.

Earlier, Andersen had worked as a writer for the Today Show critic and interviewer Gene Shalit. Before, during and after Spy, he wrote for Time, including nine years as its architecture and design critic. From 1996 to 1999 he was a staff writer and columnist ("The Culture Industry") for The New Yorker, and from 2004 to 2008 a columnist for New York ("The Imperial City").

After he became editor-in-chief of New York in 1994, its circulation and advertising revenue quickly rose.[10] In early 1996, according to a New York Times article quoting Andersen, Henry Kravis, the head of KKR, the financial firm that controlled New York's publishing company, asked him to kill a story about a rivalry between Felix Rohatyn and Steven Rattner for control of the Lazard investment bank, and to stop covering Wall Street altogether. Andersen demurred, and was fired five months later.[11]

In 1999, he co-founded an online media and entertainment news website and biweekly magazine Inside.[12] In 2001, he and his co-founders merged Inside with a site and magazine founded by Steven Brill.[13] The merged enterprise was subsequently acquired by Primedia, but Primedia closed the Brill site in October 2001, and later Inside as well.[14]

From 2001 to 2004, Andersen served as a senior creative consultant to Barry Diller's Universal Television, where he co-created the entertainment and arts channel Trio with Michael Jackson, Lauren Zalaznick and Andy Cohen. From 2003 to 2005 he was editorial director of Colors magazine, and in 2006, with his former colleague Jackson and Bonnie Siegler (and Diller's IAC) co-founded the daily email cultural curation service Very Short List. In 2007 and 2008 he was an editor-at-large for Random House, and in 2011 a guest op-ed columnist for The New York Times.

He had co-created Studio 360, a weekly program covering the arts and culture, which he hosted from its launch in 1999 to its last episode in 2020.[1] Originally a co-production of Public Radio International and WNYC, it was broadcast on 240 U.S. public radio stations to a weekly audience of more than 500,000 radio listeners, with an additional podcast audience during the 2010s. In 2005 it won a Peabody Award for an hour-long documentary about Moby Dick, the first of its 17 American Icons hours, each exploring one cultural work––including The Autobiography of Malcolm X, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Monticello, and Disneyland and EPCOT. Studio 360 remains available as a podcast.

In 2021 he co-produced, wrote and narrated Nixon At War, a seven-episode podcast about how Richard Nixon's responses to the Vietnam War resulted in his downfall and ultimately the contemporary polarization of U.S. society. The podcast, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and distributed by PRX/Public Radio Exchange, was drawn from hundreds of archival recordings unearthed from the Nixon and Lyndon Johnson presidencies.

Literary works


Andersen is the author of four novels. His first was Turn of the Century (Random House, 1999), which was a national bestseller and New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Heyday (Random House, 2007) was also a New York Times bestseller, and won the Langum Prize for the best American historical novel of 2007. True Believers (Random House, 2012) was named one of the best novels of that year by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post. His most recent novel, You Can't Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year As President (Penguin, 2017) is a fictional memoir "by" Donald Trump co-authored by Andersen with Alec Baldwin. It was a New York Times bestseller. Andersen's short fiction has been published in anthologies such as Neil Gaiman's Stories: All-New Tales (HarperCollins, 2010).

Andersen's first book was a collection of humorous essays, The Real Thing (Doubleday, 1980; Holt, 1982; Bison Press, 2008), around the idea of "quintessentialism", and he co-authored two humor books, Tools of Power (Viking, 1980), a parody of self-help books on becoming successful, and Loose Lips (Simon & Schuster, 1995), an anthology of edited transcripts of real-life conversations involving celebrated people; it was based on an off-Broadway play of the same name that he created with Lisa Birnbach and Jamie Malanowski. Along with Carter and George Kalogerakis, Andersen wrote and assembled a history and greatest-hits anthology of Spy called Spy: The Funny Years, published in 2006 by Miramax Books.

He also wrote Reset (Random House, 2009), an essay about the causes and aftermath of the Great Recession, and he has contributed to many other books, such as Spark: How Creativity Works (HarperCollins, 2011), drawn from his interviews for Studio 360, an introduction to Heinrich Boll's novel The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (Peinguin, 2010), and Fields of Vision: The Photographs of John Vachon (Library of Congress, 2010).

In 2017, he published Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, which explains American society's peculiar susceptibility to falsehoods and illusions, and how that eventually led to Trump's election and the transformation of the Republican Party and the right in general. (Random House) Excerpts from Fantasyland appeared as a cover story in The Atlantic,[15][16] and in Slate.[17][18] Fantasyland, which the Times Book Review called "a great revisionist history of America,"[19] reached #3 on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list.[20]

In August 2020, he published Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America, another New York Times bestseller that Andersen described as a "companion" to Fantasyland, a "de facto volume two in my history of the fuckening of America." Evil Geniuses examines the coordinated efforts to achieve conservative economic and political changes in the United States from the 1970s through 2020, and discusses how the resulting unfettered laissez-faire approach to capitalism has produced an extreme level of economic inequality and disempowered majority.

The film director Steven Soderbergh initiated conversations with Andersen about Evil Geniuses when it was published, which led to the two of them co-creating Command Z, a satirical sci-fi series starring Michael Cera, Liev Schreiber and Roy Wood Jr. Soderbergh directed the eight episodes, which were released in July 2023 on his web site; all proceeds are going to charity.[21][22]

Personal life


Andersen lives in New York City with his wife, author Anne Kreamer. They have two daughters, Katherine Kreamer Andersen and Lucy Kreamer Andersen.




  • Turn of the Century (Random House, 1999)[23]
  • Heyday (Random House, 2007)[24]
  • True Believers (Random House, 2012)[25]
  • You Can't Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year As President (with Alec Baldwin) (Penguin, 2017)[26]
  • The Real Thing (Doubleday, 1980; Holt, 1982; Bison Press, 2008)[27]
  • Tools of Power: The Elitist's Guide to the Ruthless Exploitation of Everybody and Everything (Viking, 1980)[28]
  • Loose Lips: Real Words, Real People, Real Funny (with Jamie Malanowski and Lisa Birnbach) (Simon & Schuster, 1995)[29]
  • Spy : The Funny Years (with George Kalogerakis and Graydon Carter) (Miramax Books, 2006)[30]
  • Hasta La Vista America: Trump's Farewell Address (Pushkin Industries, 2021)[31]
  • Reset (Random House, 2009)
  • Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History (Random House, 2017)[32] ISBN 9781400067213
  • Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History (Penguin Random House, 2020)[33]

Essays, reporting, and other contributions



  1. ^ a b "Studio 360 Is Ending After 20 Years". WNYC. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  2. ^ Falk, Tyler (June 27, 2017). "Slate will take over co-producer role with 'Studio 360'". Current. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  3. ^ Andersen, Kurt (March 25, 2007). "Omaha's Culture Club". The New York Times. Retrieved June 3, 2014.
  4. ^ Mayer, Jane. "Is Ginni Thomas A Threat to the Supreme Court?", The New Yorker, January 21, 2022. Accessed July 28, 2023.
  5. ^ "1970 Westside High School YEARBOOK - Omaha, NE". classmates.com. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  6. ^ Kelly, Jon (March 7, 2016). "How Donald Trump Became the Short-Fingered Vulgarian". Vanity Fair. Retrieved October 4, 2017..
  7. ^ Buckley, Christopher."Bonfire of Inanities", The New York Times, December 3, 2006. Accessed July 28, 2023.
  8. ^ Shafer, Jack."Scoop", The New York Times, October 8, 2009. Accessed July 28, 2023.
  9. ^ Lerner, Kevin M."How Spy, the Iconic Satirical Magazine of the 1980s, Invented Contemporary Snark, and How Internet Journalism Has Misappropriated It", The Funniest Pages: International Perspectives on Journalism and Humor, 2017. Accessed July 28, 2023.
  10. ^ Weber, Bruce. "Bill Reilly, Magazine Publishing Executive, Dies at 70", The New York Times, October 20, 2008. Accessed July 28, 2008.
  11. ^ Pogrebin, Robin."When a Magazine Is Too Brash for the Bottom Line", The New York Times, September 29, 1996. Accessed July 28, 2008.
  12. ^ Wolff, Michael. "The Insiders," New York (May 29, 2000).
  13. ^ Snyder, Gabriel. "Brill's Contented: Inside.com Merger Feeds His Big Maw," Observer (April 9, 2001).
  14. ^ Barringer, Felicity (October 16, 2001). "Brill's Content Closes; Web Site, Inside.com, Is Cut Back". The New York Times. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
  15. ^ Andersen, Kurt. "How America Lost Its Mind". The Atlantic. No. September 2017.
  16. ^ "New and Notable". Skeptical Inquirer. 42 (1). Committee for Skeptical Inquiry: 58. 2018.
  17. ^ Andersen, Kurt (October 5, 2017). "America's Gun Fantasy". Slate.
  18. ^ Andersen, Kurt (February 2, 2018). "How the GOP Went Crazy". Slate.
  19. ^ Rosin, Hanna (September 5, 2017). "Fake News: It's as American as George Washington's Cherry Tree". The New York Times. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  20. ^ "Best Sellers - September 24, 2017 - The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved August 19, 2018.
  21. ^ Zuckerman, Esther. "Steven Soderbergh Debuts Sci-Fi Series 'Command Z' at Secret New York Screening", The Hollywood Reporter, July 17, 2023. Accessed July 28, 2023.
  22. ^ Murphy, J. Kim. "Steven Soderbergh and Kurt Andersen Tell All About Their Secret Series 'Command Z' and Why Billionaires Can't Be Trusted", Variety, July 29, 2023. Accessed July 29, 2023.
  23. ^ Andersen, Kurt (1999). Turn of the Century. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-375-50008-1. OCLC 40805493.
  24. ^ Andersen, Kurt (2007). Heyday: A Novel. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0-375-50473-0. OCLC 66393698.
  25. ^ Andersen, Kurt (2012). True Believers: A Novel. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-1-4000-6720-6. OCLC 758388661.
  26. ^ Baldwin, Alec (2017). You Can't Spell America without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of my Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (a So-Called Parody). Andersen, Kurt. New York. ISBN 978-0-525-52199-0. OCLC 1018295515.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  27. ^ Andersen, Kurt (2008). The Real Thing (Bison Books ed.). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-2055-3. OCLC 221147996.
  28. ^ Andersen, Kurt (1980). Tools of Power: The Elitist's Guide to the Ruthless Exploitation of Everybody and Everything. O'Donnell, Mark; Parloff, Roger. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-72039-9. OCLC 6357653.
  29. ^ Malanowski, Jamie (1995). Loose Lips: Real Words, Real People, Real Funny. Birnbach, Lisa; Andersen, Kurt. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-80340-2. OCLC 32779313.
  30. ^ Spy: The Funny Years. Kalogerakis, George; Carter, Graydon; Andersen, Kurt. New York, N.Y.: Miramax Books/Hyperion. 2006. ISBN 1-4013-5239-1. OCLC 73496715.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  31. ^ "Hasta La Vista America: Trump's Farewell Address". Retrieved April 3, 2021.
  32. ^ Andersen, Kurt (2009). Reset: How this Crisis Can Restore our Values and Renew America. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-1-58836-964-2. OCLC 464188303.
  33. ^ Andersen, Kurt (2020). Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History. New York. ISBN 978-1-9848-0134-0. OCLC 1155487147.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)