Alec Baldwin in conversation with Steven Winn at San Francisco's Nourse Theater on April 13, 2017.

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Every time Alec Baldwin raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips like a fish as he impersonated President Donald Trump, the audience applauded and howled with laughter.

The actor and comedian stopped by San Francisco’s Nourse Theater Thursday night for a sold out City Arts & Lectures event to promote his new memoir, Nevertheless, which hit bookstands on Apr. 4.

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Baldwin talked about the book, life in New York and his work with People for the American Way to increase voter registration. But the audience was most hungry to hear about his Saturday Night Live (SNL) appearances as Trump.

Leaning forward in his chair, Baldwin revealed his internal monologue about getting into character as Trump: “Try to stick your face out as much as you can like you’re going to chew the face off the person in front of you,” Baldwin said.

The 30-Rock star initially turned down the role when SNL producer Lorne Michaels offered him the gig. Baldwin was scheduled to act in a small independent film last fall, but when the paycheck never materialized, he called Lorne back and said he was in.

His debut SNL appearance as Trump came in Oct. 2016, as he parodied the first presidential debate opposite Hillary Clinton impersonator, Kate McKinnon.

But his feelings about the role are mixed.

“I’m very 50/50 on the whole Trump [impersonation] thing,” Baldwin said. “Lorne is my dear friend, and he asked me to do this thing; I didn’t have any connection to Trump or any passion for doing that, I just pulled that out of my pocket the day we did it.”

New Yorkers are less ambivalent about the comedian’s impersonation. Baldwin said when people pass him on the street, they sometimes whisper, “thank you.”

Trump himself has responded to Baldwin’s impersonation. After the first SNL mock presidential debate, Trump tweeted: “The Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad.”

Baldwin replied swiftly calling for Trump to release his tax returns: “…@realDonaldTrump Release your tax returns and I’ll stop. Ha.”

Despite openly mocking Trump, Baldwin said he doesn’t detest the president.

“I think it’s important to understand, I don’t hate Trump,” Baldwin said. “I don’t look at him and spit on the ground, I’m more just depressed by the whole thing.”

Baldwin said that the 2016 election galvanized Americans to act. “The one silver lining, and the one piece of good news from this is he has reinvigorated democracy,” Baldwin said. “What we’ve realized is, don’t be ashamed of your beliefs and your opinions. The other side isn’t; the other side is going to throttle you like it’s a rattan cane with their opinions. You have to get political.”

Interviewer Steven Winn asked Baldwin whether he’d ever consider running for office, an idea the performer “flirted with” in 2012.

“I would love to be the president of the United States. I think I’d be a great president. I think I’d be fantastic,” Baldwin said.

There’s one caveat, though.

“My wife said she would divorce me if I ran for office,” Baldwin said.

With that, the audience laughed, the house lights came on, and Baldwin waited to answer questions.

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Alec Baldwin’s Trump Impersonations Aren’t the Most Important Thing 14 April,2017Lindsey Hoshaw

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Lindsey Hoshaw

Lindsey Hoshaw is an interactive producer for KQED Science. Before joining KQED, Lindsey was a science correspondent for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Forbes and Scientific American. On Twitter @lindseyhoshaw