Dave Barry Interview

With a weekly column appearing in several hundred newspapers, Dave Barry is arguably this country's most popular humorist. In 1988, Barry won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary ("pending a recount," according to his press materials). Barry has been promoting the paperback edition of Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys (Random House). A new book about computers is scheduled for the fall, but as Barry warns, it will get published only if he writes it.Q: It's been said that the best comic writers are depressed, and find comedy in their despair or other people's despair. Do you think this is true?A: I don't think that's the case with me. There's lots of anger in humor. And fear. And insecurity, but actual depression I don't know. I think if you're really depressed, you're much more likely to become a rock singer. Everybody cites Woody Allen as a person who doesn't seem happy, but I wouldn't call him depressed. I'd call him profoundly, spectacularly insecure. You want people to like you, so you make them laugh. I absolutely know that's what I do because that's what I always did when I was kid. You're not going to believe this, but I was not really a tall, handsome kid. Q: What were you?A: I was a little dweeb. Q: Do you think you still are?A: Yeah. I reached puberty when I was about 38. I still don't have any arm hair. I'm still waiting for arm hair. If you get on a plane with lots of businessmen, and they roll up their sleeves, you'll see they've got lots of arm hair. Now, they're not going to be humor writers. Q: Are there some subjects you don't feel are appropriate to joke about?A: Yeah. I really do. Gum disease. You know how many people suffer from it. I'm not going to write about that and have those people write to me and tell me about their problems. I don't want that. I don't want to bring that extra tragedy into their lives. But anything else is fine with me. Holocaust, rape. Q: I've read a column or two where you quote a few lines of comedy by Shakespeare, and then you make fun of the fact that it's not funny to people in this day and age. Do you think a few hundred years from now teachers will make their students read you, trying to get them to laugh?A: I hope not. And it won't even take that long before it's not funny. My idol when I was growing up was Robert Benchley, who was huge in the '30s and '40s, and I loved him, and I still love him. But I know that very few people now would get anything he's saying. I read stuff I wrote 10 years ago, and I think, no, I wouldn't write that now. Q: Do you just sit down and say, "I'm going to write now," or do you come up with ideas when you're in, say, the mall?A: Well sometimes, I'll have an idea in the mall, but it's usually an idea like "I could go for a chocolate yogurt." It's very rarely a humor-column idea. Every now and then I'll write a note on something; I'll go home and read it later on and it will say "bicycles," and I'll think, "Oh, okay, I'm sure there's a rich load of humor in there, but I don't know where it is."Q: Do you think you're ever going to burn out?A: No, I don't think so. I really like doing what I do. If I felt that I had to do it, I think I might burn out. I was writing before I got paid to do it, and I'd probably keep doing it after -- although then I'd have to get a job.

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