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John Lithgow joins Michael Krasny for on-stage conversation about Trump poetry book, 'Dumpty'

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If You Go

What: John Lithgow in conversation with Michael Krasny, presented in association with Copperfield’s Books

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31

Where: Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael

Admission, including book: $45 in advance, $50 at the door

Information: 415-444-8000, marinjcc.org, copperfieldsbooks.com

Actor John Lithgow is a busy man. The 74-year-old actor co-stars opposite Jeff Bridges in the FX cable TV spy drama “Old Man,” due out in November. Lithgow also plays the late Roger Ailes, founder of Fox News, in the new film “Bombshell,” scheduled for December release. And he’s doing some episodes of the new HBO reboot of “Perry Mason.”

But in the meantime, he’s going out on tour to promote his book, “Dumpty: The Age of Trump in Verse,” a slim-but-potent volume of light doggerel lampooning President Donald Trump with playful rhymes. He will bring his road trip the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael on Halloween. A sample of his poetry. which he humbly calls doggerel: “Trumpty Dumpty wanted a wall/To stir up a rabid political brawl.”

He hasn’t exactly been idle so far this year either. He appeared in the new remake of the classic Stephen King horror film, “Pet Sematary,” released in March and opened as Bill Clinton in “Hillary and Clinton” for a run on Broadway in April,

“My book tour comes in between,” Lithgow said by telephone from Los Angeles last week. “There are so many balls in the air right now.”

In addition to his live appearances, he’ll be promoting the book on late-night television with Trevor Noah and Conan O’Brien. The actor has already gotten a boost from Stephen Colbert, who invited Lithgow to read a couple of stanzas. “Colbert’s show is very much the venue for my poems,” Lithgow said.

Written on April 1, right after the release of Robert Mueller’s report on his two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the verse Lithgow chose to read on-air began: “The Report was at hand and Dumpty was manic/Awash in a flood of distemper and panic.”

Lithgow knows his book won’t play well with the crowd that likes to go to Trump rallies wearing red Make America Great Again caps, but he’s not concerned.

“I don’t really worry about that. I’ll be preaching to the converted for the most part,” Lithgow said, with appearances in front of liberal audiences starting in New York and ending with Marin County.

While the subject of the book is political, some of its inspiration is theatrical, with Lithgow rewriting the lyrics of songs from “The Sound of Music” and Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. In the mind’s ear, a reader can almost imagine Julie Andrews singing, “These are a few of my favorite lies.”

While Lithgow thoroughly enjoyed writing the 112-page volume, and illustrating it with the first of his delicate and funny line drawings ever to be published, he knows that “Dumpty” ultimately may not have a long shelf life.

“It’s a curious thing about political satire. By the time the piece comes out, it’s no longer current,” he said. “I think of it as history.”

Aiming to follow in the literary tradition of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear and A. A. Milne, Lithgow brandishes a wickedly versatile vocabulary and wrestles his words into some odd but funny constructions.

For example, consider this jab at conservative political commentator Sean Hannity: “Grow up!/And be a mannity!/Or find another planet-y ...”

Is the book one-sided? Well, of course it is, but the author addressed the president’s fans — after a fashion — in the book’s introduction.

“Though I myself can’t fathom it, I acknowledge your sincere devotion to Dumpty, that strange, splenetic man,” Lithgow wrote. “I see you on TV laughing, cheering and chanting at his rallies.”

More wistful than combative, the actor — ever civilized — added a brief afterthought near the end of our interview.

“I am bewildered by Trump’s popularity,” the actor conceded. “I have been waiting years for it to erode. I don’t know if that will ever happen.”

The book is just one more testament to Lithgow’s impressive range, from his lavishly honored portrayal of Winston Churchill on television’s “The Crown,” to the almost forgotten 1984 classic Halloween cult film, “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.” In that antic little romp, which co-starred Jeff Goldblum, Lithgow played dual roles as both a mad scientist and an alien invader.

“I absolutely loved that movie,” he said with a hearty laugh. “There are not many things I’ve done that were more fun.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

If You Go

What: John Lithgow in conversation with Michael Krasny, presented in association with Copperfield’s Books

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31

Where: Osher Marin Jewish Community Center, San Rafael

Admission, including book: $45 in advance, $50 at the door

Information: 415-444-8000, marinjcc.org, copperfieldsbooks.com

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