Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An Interview with Dave Barry

Dave Barry opens SUNY New Paltz series
By Matt Frey

Nationally-syndicated humor columnist Dave Barry kicked off the SUNY New Paltz Distinguished Speaker Series on Wednesday, Nov. 12.

“I’m excited and honored to be the first speaker in the SUNY New Paltz Distinguished Speaker Series,” said Barry. “I am also assuming it is going to get a lot more distinguished.”

Barry, a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, has written several of bestsellers including Babies and Other Hazards of Sex, Dave Barry Slept Here: A Short History of the United States, Stay Fit and Healthy Until You're Dead, Homes and Other Black Holes and Claw Your Way to the Top. Aside from his book-turned-film Big Trouble starring Tim Allen and Dave’s World, the television show based on his life, Barry is also known for his list of “The Worst Songs Ever Recorded,” in which he declared “Horse with No Name” by America to be one of the most heinous. (In a Times Community Newspapers exclusive, Barry revealed that he would have named the horse “Spot” or possibly “Dick Cheney.”)

Barry got his start as a reporter at the Associated Press in 1975, and then joined Burger Associates, a consulting firm that teaches effective writing skills to businesspeople. In 1983, he took a job at The Miami Herald and began writing syndicated humor columns, which, he says, is much more entertaining than his old AP job. However, just because Barry has a lot more fun in his current situation doesn’t mean that he didn’t enjoy his time at the Associated Press.

“I actually liked being a reporter, except for the part about having to be factually accurate,” said Barry. “It's a lot easier to make things up.”

But with exploding pop-tarts, disastrous skiing trips, forcing himself to listen to the world’s worst music and some of his books just barely missing bestseller status, Barry says his occupation isn’t all fun and games. There’s good and bad aspects, he says.

“The best part is I can do my job at home, in my underwear. (Actually, I can do it in anybody's underwear),” said Barry. “Also, since what I do is basically ridiculous, I never get called on to make important decisions. The worst part is that, because I work at home, I am never more than 38 feet from Cheez-Its.”

But Barry’s skills aren’t just limited to writing humor columns and eating salty snack foods. Though one might not realize it, the humorist knows much about the economic crisis currently facing the United States. Furthermore, he says he’s got the perfect solution to everyone’s financial woes.

“The whole thing is totally my fault,” said Barry. “I have written a personal check to cover the damages. It is in the mail.”

With America’s finical crisis essentially solved single-handedly by Barry, we can all relax a little more and think about the future. And what does Barry’s future hold? Is he going to go full-steam ahead in the coming years, or is it time for a break?

Actually, a bit of philanthropy is his next order of business.

“I was going to slow down, but I decided it would be better to keep working so that I can continue sending money to help bail out needy Wall Street financial institutions,” Barry said.

In addition to his skilled satire and economic savvy, Barry is widely known for his wise, fatherly advice. For those trying to become humorists like him, Barry insists, “Make sure you have comfortable underwear.”

Put perhaps Barry’s most important insight is thus: When asked if there was anything he would like the readers of the Mid Hudson Times to know, he replied: “I just want to say that, of all the sectors of the Hudson, my favorite has always been the Mid.”

Originally published in the Mid Hudson Times on Nov. 5, 2008

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