I swear I am not making this up…
July 3, 2018
The ability to write humor is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to do. Too often the humor is lost on the reader and they are left thinking “umm?”
For years I’ve read and enjoyed the humor of Dave Barry who turns 70 on July 3. His nationally syndicated column ran from 1983 to 2005. Additionally, he’s written numerous books which highlight some of the more ridiculous aspects of modern American life.
His 27 published books have ranged from observations on parenthood, to musings on growing older, as well as Dave’s own unique take on history. Even the titles of his books are humorous. Here are a few of my favorite titles:
- The Taming of the Screw (1983)
- Claw Your Way to the Top: How to Become the Head of a Major Corporation in Roughly a Week (1986)
- Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States (1989)
- Dave Barry’s Gift Guide to End All Gift Guides (1994)
- “My Teenage Son’s Goal in Life is to Make Me Feel 3,500 Years Old” and Other Thoughts On Parenting From Dave Barry (2001)
- “The Greatest Invention in the History Of Mankind Is Beer” And Other Manly Insights From Dave Barry (2001)
- Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster): Life Lessons and Other Ravings from Dave Barry (2015)
Here’s what the Infallible Wikipedia has to say about Barry’s career:
“Barry began his journalism career in 1971, working as a general-assignment reporter for the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pennsylvania, near his alma mater, Haverford College. He covered local government and civic events and was promoted to City Editor after about two years. He also started writing a weekly humor column for the paper and began to develop his unique style. He remained at the newspaper through 1974. He then worked briefly as a copy editor at the Associated Press‘s Philadelphia bureau before joining Burger Associates, a consulting firm.
At Burger, he taught effective writing to business people. In his own words, he ‘spent nearly eight years trying to get various businesspersons to…stop writing things like ‘Enclosed please find the enclosed enclosures,’ but…eventually realized that it was hopeless.’
In 1981 he wrote a humorous guest column, about watching the birth of his son, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, which attracted the attention of Gene Weingarten, then an editor of the Miami Herald‘s Sunday magazine Tropic. Weingarten hired Barry as a humor columnist in 1983. Barry’s column was syndicated nationally. Barry won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1988 for ‘his consistently effective use of humor as a device for presenting fresh insights into serious concerns.’
(snip) In response to a column in which Barry mocked the cities of Grand Forks, North Dakota, and East Grand Forks, Minnesota, for calling themselves the ‘Grand Cities’, Grand Forks named a sewage pumping station after Barry in January 2002. Barry traveled to Grand Forks for the dedication ceremony.”
Barry is perhaps best known for the following sentence which often precedes some outrageous and humorous ‘fact’ – “I swear I am not making this up.”
Although I read Barry’s columns for several years, it was a book given to me by a young Mom, Vicki, which really made me a fan.
The year was 1989 and I was pregnant with my son. As her two boys were now beyond the stage of needing cribs and car seats, Vicki, gave me piles of gear. The real gem among the stuff was Dave’s book Babies and Other Hazards of Sex: How to Make a Tiny Person in Only 9 Months With Tools You Probably Have Around the Home (1984)
In the course of incubating my own small human I had time to read the book. There was lots of humorous stuff between the pages and I laughed at much of it. At the time I thought he was exaggerating. It wasn’t until AFTER my son was born that I came to appreciate the truth in his whimsical look at parenthood and maybe, just maybe, he WASN’T making it up.
Of all the lines in the book (I’m paraphrasing) it was this one which I did not understand until sometime in 1990:
“The best time to feed your baby is just before the phone rings and right after you’ve gone to sleep.”
For anyone who’s been a parent you know exactly what that means… for the rest of you? Well, check out any one of his other books to brighten your day.
Two links for you: