The Dave Barry Interview

March 11, 2004

Today is the day to kiss your biceps.

ORDER MY BOOK! (and, you're going to come, right?)

I interviewed my friend Marc Stines about his interesting job for Rated Rookie magazine.

Today's interviewee was, I think, the first writer to make me laugh out loud and realize that writing is a great humor venue. I think my mom regretting introducing my brother and me to his writing because we would sit in the back seat snickering during car trips, reading his books. You probably know him for his Pulitzer-Prize-winning column, or his books. or his sitcom or movie or novel. I am especially fond of him this year for the hot tip to purchase caffeinated soap as a Christmas gift, but that's another story.

The Dave Barry Interview: Slightly Less Than Twenty Questions

You talk often about your home and family in your writing. Do they ever get annoyed with you discussing personal details in your column?
I never put anything embarrassing or personal in there without showing it to the person I'm writing about. Of course my daughter is only four, and thus can't read, which makes it highly unlikely that she'll object.

In your many years as a humor writer, have you seen the medium evolve much, or do the topics just change?
Humor writing is much more Internet-based now; the Onion's brilliant, of course, but there are also lots of funny humor sites and blogs.

Will your 2004 Presidential campaign be any different than your previous attempts? Are you worried that a vote for Dave Barry will be a vote for Ralph Nader, hence a vote for George Bush?
Well, it would probably just be the one vote, so I'm not worried about affecting the outcome. I'm not really in it because I want to run the country. I'm in it for the cash contributions.

What do you think will turn out to be the biggest source for comedic material in the 2004 race?
If I had to narrow it down, I'd say: The candidates.

Who are some of your favorite humor writers?
Steve Martin, Carl Hiaasen, Roy Blount Jr., Gene Weingarten, the late great Robert Benchley, the Onion people, and a bunch more whose names escape me now because EVERYTHING escapes me now except body fat.

When and why did you begin your blog? Is it a burden to keep up in addition to the columns and the books and the other projects?
I started it in early 2003 or thereabouts because Ken Layne ordered me to. Yeah, sometimes it's a hassle, but I'm learning not to fret about it when I have actual paying work to do.

With comedians, it seems like the funnier, the more morose in real life. Does that work with writers as well or do writers get to eschew that, along with blazers with pushed-up sleeves?
I think humor writers are generally much happier than standup comedians. I don't know why, exactly, but we seem to be less neurotic. Maybe it's because we tend to have more normal home lives, as opposed to traveling constantly and having to deal with hecklers.

What music have you been listening to this week?
"Fought Down," by Ken Layne and the Corvids.

It seems your fans send in a lot of weird paraphernalia from clippings to suggestions for your annual gift guide. What have been some of the stranger items you've received this year?
I received a food item with Chinese writing on the package, except for the words "SQUID CHUNKS IN THEIR OWN INK." Yum!

What were some of the major differences between seeing your column being turned into a sitcom and your novel being turned into a feature film?
The TV show was on for four years, so it was around a lot longer; the movie was made in an intense couple of months. The TV show was done in LA, so I wasn't around it much; the movie was shot in Miami, so I got to watch it being made. But in both cases I was basically an observer -- I didn't really have anything to do with either one, other than watch.

You were one of the writers of the 2003 Oscars. What kind of experience is it to work on such a big production? Would we remember any nuggets of yours that made it into the broadcast?
It was interesting, in that the writing is very collaborative -- we all sat around Steve Martin's living room, pitching jokes and laughing, and after a while you couldn't really remember who suggested what part of what joke. Totally unlike column-writing.

As for the nuggets: The parts you laughed at were all MINE.

Will your next book be fiction or non? Or a completely different project?
Fiction. My friend and bandmate Ridley Pearson and I
have written a book called "Peter and the Starcatchers." It's a
prequel to "Peter Pan," for ages 10 and up.

The author Neal Pollack released an album to go along with his novel, Never Mind the Pollacks. Did you and the Rock Bottom Remainders set the precedent for authors rocking out?
I don't know about that. But I DO know the Remainders will never release an album, because of creative issues, such as that we suck.

You've been with the Miami Herald for over 20 years. Do you have any secrets for always having material for a column, i.e. keeping a list of potential topics, drinking a lot, etc?
Those two, yes; but mainly it's a matter of keeping your mind open to the idea that almost anything that happens to humans can be a column topic.

Do you ever feel burnt out?
Yes, usually by around question 15.

I wrote you a letter once asking you this but maybe you can share insight with my readers. Is there anything a writer can do to further a fabulous career as a columnist or author, or is the usual, steady writing, constant pitching and submitting?
Those are the steps. Most people are looking for shortcuts, which is why most people never have writing careers.

It seems that most writers tend to be comfortable behind their work, but more often than not, there are photos of you on your books, on your site, etc. Have you ever been squeamish about that?
I hate the covers, and hate the photo shoots. HATE them. But this is one of those areas where Mr. Publisher makes the call.

You are one of the few writers I can think of, except for maybe David Sedaris, who have made appearances on talk shows because of your fame as a writer. Do you think writers have an easier time on these shows since they're storytellers by nature? Or is it horribly discomfiting since writers are used to hiding behind computer screens?
Some writers are good on camera, and some aren't. There used to be a lot more writers on TV, but it's getting pretty rare, in these celebrity-intensive times.

How does it feel to be the 90th person interviewed for
It's the highlight of my life to date.