Our greatest living humorist, Garrison Keillor, recently wrote, “I miss the old days when newspapers used to publish humor columns, like Dave Barry’s. Why did he go away? In Dave’s column, you learned things The New York Times didn’t print — stuff about exploding badgers or a man with grass growing out of his ear, or a story about the government’s estimate of the amount of methane released into the atmosphere annually by flatulent dairy cows.”
Keillor went on to say that “Dave Barry gave up writing a weekly column in 2005, and in 2019 we need him more than ever. Back in the day, humor was a relief from the serious, but now with our first preteen president, comedy has become the news itself.”
I couldn’t agree more. We’re living in one of the most divisive periods in our nation’s history. That may be one of the reasons that stand-up comedy is more popular and prolific than ever. But you would never know that journalism has a sense of humor by reading a standard newspaper today. (I’m sorry, I take that back. Many print newspapers still have a comics page along with the comic absurdity of the daily horoscope. There’s also Dear Abby, which is often the advice column version of The Jerry Springer Show.)
Bombeck, Barry, and Grizzard
For years I looked forward to Dave Barry’s syndicated column that the Miami Herald enabled Dave to share with the world. While Dave Barry was entertaining me as a reader, he was also quietly mentoring me as a humor writer.
“It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles against prevailing winds for the opportunity just to rain on a tent. Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business.” — Dave Barry
Dave Barry’s influence is a major reason why it makes perfect sense that for years now I’ve been drinking my coffee out of a mug imprinted with the words “I Make Stuff Up.” Dave taught me the art of exaggeration stretched to the point of complete fiction. He also showed me that not only is truth indeed stranger than fiction, it’s often funnier. My incurable Dave Barry infection is the reason I frequently have to say to readers, “I’m not kidding, look it up.” or “I couldn’t make this up if I tried.”
Before Jeff Foxworthy had us laughing at our Southern selves, the late great Lewis Grizzard, known for his books such as “Elvis is Dead and I Don’t Feel So Good Myself,” regularly amused the readers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution with his Southern-fried view of life and the world.
“I think being a pastor would be a great job. You only have to work one day a week. And all you have to do then is make a speech, plus they give you this big ole book to go by.” — Lewis Grizzard
If you’re standing next to a millennial turn to them and explain to them who Erma Bombeck was. You’d forgotten about her, hadn’t you? Bombeck’s syndicated column ran in newspapers from the mid-1960s to the late 1990s, describing the humor of suburban life.
“My theory on housework is, if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares.” — Erma Bombeck