Barry delights devoted fans

Posted 10/2/08

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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Barry delights devoted fans


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.

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 fashion.

“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 readers.


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