Chris Michlewicz When the state of national politics is in a shambles, one Florida man does not get mad. He gets funny. I am not making this up. …
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When the state of national politics is in a shambles, one
Florida man does not get mad. He gets funny. I am not making this
Bearing his trademark goofy smile, beloved humor columnist and
perennial presidential candidate Dave Barry delighted an audience
of about 500 at The Wildlife Experience Sept. 25 with painfully
enlightening jokes about everything from North Dakota’s unpopular
tourism trade and his amateurish parenting skills to Iran’s
development of a technologically sophisticated Oscar Mayer
Weinermobile and his ever-popular political platform, in which
Barry solemnly pledges to “agree with you.”
The audience — a healthy mix of young and old — hung on every
word as Barry methodically segued from one topic to the next,
delivering a consistent barrage of hilarious anecdotes. The
61-year-old Miami resident spent an hour and a half speaking to the
crowd about his exploits as a bumbling father, roving “reporter”
and part-time guitarist in a band called the Rock-Bottom
Remainders, which includes authors Stephen King, Mitch Albom,
Ridley Pearson and Amy Tan. The band does not get to play very
often, something Barry says is a “good thing for the world.”
Barry, whose syndicated humor columns appeared regularly in 250
newspapers nationwide for nearly 25 years, is now promoting his
latest children’s book with Pearson called “Science Fair.” It tells
the tale of a middle school science project that goes awry and
threatens to destroy the planet. Barry says the story partly
revolves around the pop culture phenomenon in which amateur
scientists mix Diet Coke and Mentos for an explosive effect.
Barry’s visit was a part of the first annual Author Extravaganza
that benefits the Douglas County Library Foundation, an independent
nonprofit organization that supports the district through
supplemental funding. The second half of the night paired Barry
with Jamie Brickhouse, stand-up comedian and director of the
HarperCollins Speakers Bureau, in a conversational interview.
The public speaking gig is nothing new to Barry, although he
considers himself a writer first and foremost. The author of
multiple works, he has traveled the country to promote his latest
books and has grown comfortable relaying true tales and almost
nonfictional stories to large audiences from the stage.
As president, however, he might not fit the bill. Every four
years, Barry half-jokingly announces his intent to run for office.
Although he admits his support is lacking, Barry finds comfort in
the fact that he’s “not losing votes.” When asked how he would
handle the nation’s economic crisis, he answers in typical
“I would leave and say ,‘I don’t know anything about this stuff.
I would just screw it up,’” said Barry, who earned a Pulitzer Prize
for commentary in 1988. “’Let me know if there is anything I can
sign. I’m going to Tahiti.’”
Barry is clearly cut out to be a writer, and an insightful one
at that. He retired from his regular column at the Miami Herald in
2005, but has not slowed down.
“When I retired from writing a column regularly, I thought I
would cut back, but I figured out that I ended up writing more
words per year, just in a different form,” Barry said. “I find it
hard to picture a life where I didn’t do anything like this. I
could see maybe not writing as much. The nice thing about writing
is it’s not coal mining; you can do it forever if you want to.”
When asked what he expects out of the next 20 years, Barry
offers a simple, one-word prediction: death. He and a group of
author friends recently realized they are “in the fourth quarter”
of life, and you “don’t even get the whole quarter.” But before the
quarter is up, Barry is guaranteed to produce work that will
continue to inspire — and crack-up — his throngs of devoted
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