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Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Paul Krassner's 50 Years of Misadventures in Satire and Counterculture

An interview with co-founder of the Yippies and legendary satirist Krassner on his new book and his recent forays into journalism and activism.

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Yes. I was at a comedy convention in Las Vegas recently and the names that always come up are Lenny, George Carlin and Richard Pryor. Those are the big three. Stand-up comics today use the freedom that Lenny pioneered. They don't have to fear being arrested for what they say. That's Lenny's legacy.

There are so many adventures recounted in the book, it's hard to know which ones to ask about. Do any stick with you more than others, or is it all just a blur?

The whole period of psychedelic macho. I took 300 micrograms of LSD before testifying at the Chicago Eight trial. Abbie stopped speaking to me for 10 months after that. He thought it was irresponsible. I also tripped on The Tonight Show. That whole period of doing everything—going into the subway at rush hour—just to see what it was like on acid, is very memorable. Also, the decade of running an underground abortion referral service when it was illegal. I was subpoenaed by DAs in two cities, but I refused to testify before their grand juries. It was all part of a pattern of blurring the line between observer and participant in. I assigned a story to Robert Anton Wilson to cover Leary's compound at Millbrook, then Leary invited me up for a visit. I ended up tripping with him.

You also tripped with Ram Dass, Kesey, Groucho. Is there anybody you didn't trip with?

Harpo Marx, Aldous Huxley, Rachel Maddow, Rush Limbaugh and you.

Do you still take psychedelics?

I was taking ecstasy for a while, and mushrooms. Now it's pretty much just pot. But the [society's] priorities are insane. Cigarettes kill 1,200 individuals every day—and that's just in this country—whereas the worst that can happen with marijuana is maybe you'll raid the refrigerator at midnight. The soul of the Yippies was understanding the linear connection between busting a kid in this country for smoking a weed and dropping napalm on a kid on the other side of the globe. It was the ultimate extension of dehumanization. As long as any government can arbitrarily decide which drugs are legal and which are illegal, then anybody who's behind bars for a nonviolent drug offense is a political prisoner.

Where is the counterculture of today?

There's always been a counterculture, and always will be. While cave-dwelling parents were doing hieroglyphics on their stone walls, the kids were out carving messages on a boulder. That was the first attempt at alternative media. There's always a counterculture. It's the essence of evolution. It just takes different forms -- in modern times, from the Bohemians to the Beats, to the hippies, the Yippies, punk, hip-hop. It's interactive in a new way with the Internet, that's blurring the line between mainstream and counterculture. Everything is accelerating so information rises to the top faster and faster.

It used to take years to get the word out about, say, a secret war in Peru. And now it's more immediate. That's why I've become almost as much in awe of technology as I am of nature. In the '60s I wore two buttons. One said, "No secrets." The other said, "Information is Free." But they were just abstract ideas. WikiLeaks is a heroic organization actually carrying out those ideas. What they reveal spans the whole spectrum from embarrassment to criminality. Secrecy is the basis of maintaining power.

If you were starting out now, what do you think you would do?

My goal with the Realist was communication without compromise. I wanted to put myself out of business eventually. And with the Internet, this became real. If I was starting out today, I might just do stand-up, which is what I was doing before the Realist. I'd be doing satire in one form or another. Absurdity is my religion, so I start with that perception.

Does anything remind you of the Realist today?

 
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