Books - Dave Barry is the greatest
Former humor columnist turned author is still the 'funniest man living'
Steve Martin once referred to him as the "funniest man living." And former Miami Herald humor columnist (1983-2005) turned author Dave Barry is the perfect mix of satire and dad jokes — which is fitting since much of his writing is inspired by the misadventures of parenthood and recent grandparenthood.
His newest book, Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer Is Much Faster), is a collection of essays that range from travel adventures and the trials of home-ownership (hey, not every man is a handyman) to the inadequacies of aging in a world where your wife is being wooed by soccer sensation David Beckham. In one essay Dave and his daughter Sophie prepare to thwart would-be thieves in Brazil during the World Cup (spoiler: there were no thieves), only to conclude that they should probably refocus their efforts on making money themselves by pretending to rob Americans at the airport. It's a lucrative business if you heed the warnings of basically any travel guide or review of what to expect when visiting the country. In another, he represents the United States in Russia through the American Writers Series program, beginning his lectures with a photo of himself in the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile and explaining his contribution to American literature as similar to what Dostoyevsky did for Russia.
While his essays are lighthearted and easy to read, filled with zingy one-liners, they're not without substance. Barry reminisces about the bygone days of his youth, when his parents — the Greatest Generation — lived like Don Draper and threw cocktail parties for the neighborhood on weekends. Their biggest worry wasn't how much gluten their offspring consumed but whether they'd wake the kids when returning from stealing the IBM sign that was on the scavenger-hunt list. For Barry, today's world is filled with second-guessing, constant worry, and horrible Miami drivers. If humor is truly the great equalizer, Barry has no problem finding happiness in the modern world.
On a recent tour stop at Savannah College of Art and Design's Atlanta campus, Barry was introduced by Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports columnist Jeff Schultz, who characterized the author as, you guessed it, "the funniest man in America." His advice to an aspiring humorist? Tweet.
"In a world where newspaper space and columns are on the decline, finding your craft on social media requires a different kind of cleverness and skill," Barry tells me. "Or write for shows like 'Parks and Recreation' or 'The Daily Show' — the paycheck is better, but no one will know your name."
In another essay, Barry mocks the 24-hour news cycle by cleverly portraying the balance between being the first to report but the last to confirm details. When asked if he thinks this dynamic has affected journalistic integrity, Barry says it's more about entertaining. "The quality of journalism has declined now," he says. "Not because people are not good journalists but because people are so busy being first and funniest and quickest."
So how does one find happiness, exactly? Well that depends on how one defines it. For Barry, it's "not having too many real things to worry about. If you're worrying about gaining four pounds, and that's the level of things to worry about, that's a pretty happy place to be and you just have to accept that you're happy."
Dad humor aside, Barry isn't without insight. And while his parent's generation may still reign as the greatest, he has interesting thoughts on how his grandson's generation may be defined. "Things are always better than you're told they're going to be, and I think things will be like that for my grandson. The people that say, 'You've ruined the world,' I think they're wrong, actually. Things end up working themselves out better than you expect them to .... Whatever happens, I'll be dead anyway."