Authors@Google: Dave Barry

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 11.05.2010

[jazz music playing]
>>Gopi: Dave Barry has a staggering ambition. He wants to become the President of the United
States of America.
[audience chuckles]
And his highest priority will be to issue the death penalty to the person responsible
for making Americans install low-flow toilets.
[audience laughs and claps]
Good afternoon, Googlers. My name is Gopi Kallayil. I work in Google marketing and we
all knew this day would finally come and our young company is prepared for it. We knew
that one day Dave Barry would visit the Googleplex and inspect our toilets.
[audience chuckles]
Dave, I'm happy to tell you that wherever you go in the Googleplex, you will find the
total, high-tech, high-flow toilet. And Dave, I know you're hiding backstage, I am not making
this up.
[audience laughs]
"So who is the real Dave Barry", I asked Google last night. And since Google knows everything,
it told me that he was elected Class Clown of his Pleasantville High School class in
For 25 years he wrote a syndicated column that was published in over 500 newspapers,
and in 1988 he won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. It left his critics speechless.
And he's written over 30 books as well along the way. Now, you would think that when you've
done so much, a man would grow up, and maybe get a membership card with the AARP, or something.
No, but not Dave. He's gone on to write his next book and he's here today to tell us about
it. Dave Barry's, "I'll Mature When I'm Dead: Dave Barry's Amazing Tales of Adulthood."
I'm delighted to welcome to the Google campus one of the finest, funniest writers in the
entire world; a man who hopes to become, one day, the President of the United States of
America. Ladies and gentlemen, here to talk about his latest book, is Mr. Dave Barry.
>>Dave: Thank you.
Gobi's available for weddings, Bar mitzvahs, and I thank you for the introduction. I just
want to clarify the toilet thing. I don't think about them all the time.--
[man laughs]
I did write a, a number of columns back when Congress decided to switch to low-flow toilets
and I didn't realize that, until I-I-I moved to a house that had them that...and, I, I-I
was u-up-upset cause i-it, it, I mean, now we're used to it but young people don't realize
that there was a time this country had great toilets.
We had the best toilets in the world. We had toilets that could suck down a mature sheep.
But, now we, we have, anyway. I'm not gonna get too far into the toilets. I think Gobi
covered that pretty well. This is actually not my first visit to the Googleplex. This
is my second. The people applauding don't know why, hehehe, maybe you were there.
I'm in a band of authors called The Rock Bottom Remainders. And it was Amy Tan, one of our
founding members, who arranged for us to come here and perform. And for those who were here
that night, I'm sorry--
But, the idea, the idea, of, of...the band has been around since 1992 and the original
idea was, it was going to be a one night thing, and the idea was to get a bunch of authors
with musical talent together and play a show to raise money.
It was during a bookseller's convention for a First Amendment cause and the only flaw
in that plan was that it-it turns out none of the authors had any lit-uhh, musical talent.
But we enjoyed playing so much that we, we just kept together and we still play. And
as Amy once put it, "I would do this to kill the whales."
Although, to my knowledge no whale has ever been killed as a result of any, our Remainders
performance. But we, we, our genre we call it "Hard Listening Music".
And those of you who were here that night may remember our, we-the, I call our, the
technique we, we play "The Rumor Method" of music. Which is to say, everybody is holding
an instrument or, of some kind and everybody's playing something. And then a rumor goes around
that there might have been a might have been a chord change.
Whoa. Anyway, I'll switch to something else although not the, the same, necessarily the
same something else. Anyway, so, I went, I have been here, had a-a nice tour, it was
impressed as I'm sure everybody is by this fascinating, huge, complex, mysterious operation.
And I'm, of course, a Googler. I-I'm a l-long-time user of Google. In fact, I, it has really
changed my work habits as it, I suppose most people. When I need to know something I used
to have to look it up, you know, with an almanac or something and now I just get on Google
and like, two hours later I'm looking at something completely unrelated. And I uhh--
As I, I'm, thanks to you guys; I'm wasting time faster than ever before. And, and I do
appre.. no, I use Google all the time. What I need, and I-I've said that I-I need a search
engine, I need a, a Goog, a special Google that whatever I type in for a search it returns,
"Get back to work."
So if you could work on that. I'm gonna talk a little bit about my and I was hoping to
do actually a dramatic reading from it using somebody in the audience as a foil. But I'll
get to that in a little.
This is a book of essays. All but one of which have never appeared anywhere else. Most, most
of my, a lot of books I, I've written over the years really just compilations of, of
newspaper columns. This is not; these are original essays written for this book but
the one that the, one exception, the one that sort of started the idea of, of, in my mind,
of writing this book and it's really kind of the same, kind of the same inspiration
that inspired William Faulkner and Marcel Proust and, a colonoscopy.
Now most of you fortunately for yourselves are too young to have had this experience
but eventually in life you'll, you'll, you'll be advised that you need to get a colonoscopy.
I went way, way past the time when you're supposed to get one. And I and I didn't get
And then I got a call, actually got an email from my brother, Sam, who lives in San Francisco,
saying that he had just, he's younger than I am but much more responsible. And his, his
email said that he had gotten a colonoscopy and they had found that he had cancer. And
they caught it really early and just to clear that up, he's fine now. They, they treated
it and he's, he's fine. But it was a little, it was quite scary. And the email said, "The
doctors told me that I should contact my siblings and make sure that they've been screened also."
And he said to me, "I'm sure you've been screened already", because I'm older than he is.
And of course I hadn't. And the reason I hadn't, and it's the big fear most people have, it's,
it's the, the, the im-, the impression people have about a colonoscopy is that it is going
to be awful because they're gonna stick a tube 17,000 feet up your butt.
And they are. That's exactly what they do. In fact, the big danger of the procedure is
that the tube will go out of you and enter another patient.
They have a guy with an ax to cut it off in case it gets loose in the room. But, it's
nothing because it's a lot like the '60s. They give you drugs--
and you don't remember it. You don't remember any of it. I, when I, was, was done, I asked,
I sin-sincerely didn't know it was done and it, I felt so good I thought, "Well let's
do it again while we're"--
That wasn't so bad. The only bad part of the actual procedure, something to, something
to keep in mind, the procedure room they had, and this is fairly common I gather in rooms
where this kinds of procedures going on, they had music playing.
I think that's supposed to relax you and it would have except for that when they were
just putting me under with the stuff and Dr. Sable was coming toward me with the tube,
the song that came on the PA was "Dancing Queen"--
by ABBA. So you, that's really the last song you want to hear when a guy is coming at you
with a tube and you're about to be unconscious. So anyway--
ask for the non-ABBA version. The other part, and I don't want to get too graphic here,
those of you who have been through this experience will know what I'm talking about. The preparation
for the colonoscopy is a little bit intense because they have to clean you out pretty
good. So they give you nuclear laxative.
So powerful that you're bowels travel into the future.
And you expel food that you have not even eaten yet.
Ok. Never, if you've ever seen a space shuttle launch, that's generally the--
experience. So anyway--
enough about that. So anyway, that, that, so I wrote, I wrote an essay about that. That,
mm-at the time I didn't think about writing a book of essays, so I wrote a book and it
ran in Miami Herald and a bunch of other newspapers and it, and it, and it, became pretty viral
on the Internet. I got a tre- , a lot, lot of responses to that, and to this day in fact,
if, when I get on an airplane people like, some guy ten rows away will go, "Dave, I got
a colonoscopy!" And, which is not the best thing to have and--
people yelling to you and, with all those other people wondering, "Why is he telling
him that?"
[audience chuckles]
So anyway, I thought that, I kind of enjoyed that, I hadn't been writing a column for awhile,
I've been doing other things. But I kind of enjoyed writing that essay and I enjoyed the
fact that I could write a longer essay and, and, when I was writing newspaper columns
they, they had to be about 650 words. Ki-kinda had to keep them short and so I, I came up
with the idea, of, of writing a series of essays and, and turn them into a book and
that's, that's really what this became; how this book came to be.
One of the topics I talk about extensively in the book is, is my city. I live in Miami.
I moved there in 1986 from the United States.
And I always feel like, a, sort of an ambassador for the City of Miami because it has a very
poor image. Every year the Zogby organization does a poll where they ask people what their
impressions are of major metropolitan areas. Every year Miami does poorly in this poll.
The last one I saw, 67 percent of the respondents said that they thought of Miami as a dangerous,
violent place. And that's really disturbing to me. I, I want to track those people down
and kill them.
Because it's not, I mean, it's like any other place. There's, there's, there's good and
there's bad, but really is a, a wonderful city. So I wrote a chapter in, in the book
which is a, an essay in the book which is essentially a visitor's guide to Miami, which
starts out with my, my proposed solution to the, the tourism image problem which is a-a
new tourism promotion campaign based on the slogan, "Come back to Miami. We weren't shooting
at you."
[clears throat]
I talk in there about what, what's, things to do, things not to do, where to go, where
not to go. My, my main place not to go in Miami is outdoors.
That can be pretty dangerous. And, and, also driving, can, is a little hazardous in Miami.
When I first got there I thought, "These people don't know the law." I now realize that everybody
in Miami is driving according to the law of his or her individual country of origin.
And apparently there's countries where it's traditional to put on that left turn signal
first thing in the morning.
Maybe put it on the night before just to make sure it's, where. It's the only place I've
ever lived where the driver's manual shows you how to give the finger.
[audience chuckles]
Where people will pass you in a car wash and, and it, and it, and it, and in addition to
the, with the people from all the different cultures, we have a lot of retirees driving
in South Florida, in, in the mix. Folks who I think most of them didn't, I think they
mostly grew up in the New York area, didn't drive a lot, if at all, most of their lives
to public transportation. And then they retired, they lost the vast majority of their sight
and hearing, -
and they moved to South Florida and got drivers licenses. Which-
down there come with your Happy Meal.
And so y-y-y-you have a lot of kind of oblivious drivers. I've never lived anywhere where there
were some, a certain kind of accident happens so often. It's the kind of accident where
a car, a motorist, drives into a building.
Sometimes pretty darn far into the building and it--
it's not the kind of building that sprang up at the last minute, you know.
The building had been there some time when the motorist arrived and it-it's on the news
almost every night. There's a car in a building and --
the, the TV guy always says the same thing, "The driver told police his foot was on the
brake when in fact, it was on the accelerator."
We have all made that mistake, but how long does it take you to figure it out?
You have to wait until you're in the salad bar.
We had a, a driver, this was about, I think, it's the year before last and an-n-n-n we,
th-the Miami police stopped a 73 year old man driving a Chevrolet Cobalt. Now that in
itself is not so weird. It's a 73 year old man, driving a Chevrolet Cobalt, pulled over
by the police. It's where they stopped him; Runway 9 Miami International Airport.
This is absolutely true. This man, without noticing it, had burst through the perimeter
gates and was on the, now you'd think that when you're, you see a 737 in your lane--
you know you're not on LeJeune Road anymore, you know, you're, but--
apparently this did not occur to this man; police pull him over. That, and the thing
about that is that's my airport. I was in that airport this morning. I can't near a
plane there with shampoo.
This man was out there with a Cobalt. He must have had it in one of that clear 1-quart,
plastic bags. So, so driving is not so safe. Public transportation, on the other hand,
is also not necessarily safe in Miami. I can give you a couple examples. One, this happened
some years ago and it became quite well known. Some Norwegian tourists landed at Miami International
Airport and got on a hotel c-courtesy shuttle bus to go to their hotel. And it was hijacked.
They were hijacked in a hotel courtesy shuttle van, which was a big deal back in Norway where
there is no crime at all. The mo-, like, if they had a show called "CSI: Norway" the big
case would involve improperly labeled herring. So--
This was a big deal; the Norwegians. And another case, a German tourist, this is when we got
our really bad reputation abroad, a German tourist checked out--
[audience member coughs]
he was staying at a hotel near the airport and he checked out of the hotel and complained
about an odor in his room. And they checked and there was, in fact, a deceased person
under the bed.
[inaudible audience exclamations]
And not a recently deceased person; it had been there awhile, and that, again, big deal
over in Germany because--
they have a lit, higher standards for housecleaning. You might find a dust bunny but you're not
going to find an old corpse under--
a German hotel bed. It may, if there's a corpse under a German hotel bed, it's a fresh corpse,
you can bet on it.
But anyway, despite the fact that he was not charged for the extra room occupant, they
made a big deal about that over there in Germany.
But the public transportation that, that I, the, the story that, that, to me, that sort
of s-stood out most of all for the general weirdness of Miami happened last year. And
on a thing we call the People Mover, which is a thing that m-moves people around, it's
like a little, mass transit thing in downtown Miami. What happened was two homeless guys,
I believe they were homeless guys, were fishing in Biscayne Bay, which is bay right next to
the city, and they caught a six-foot nurse shark.
Pretty big shark, I mean, for the bay and they decided they wanted to sell it to some
fish wholesaler. There's some fish wholesalers by the Miami River downtown about a mile from
there. And they decided the best way to get it there: public transportation.
So they took this shark onto the People Mover and set in on the floor. And it really is
not designed for marine life, the People Mover. The shark was not doing well but it was still
alive and commuters got on the, the thing, and I know this because this woman who's a
reader of my blog took a picture with her camera and emailed it to me. I, I thought
I'd seen everything in Miami but there's a shark on the People Mover and it's not a dead
So we could have had a, the shark didn't attack anybody, but we could
have had a shark attack on the People Mover and that would have been great. That would
have been the--
maybe the single best thing that ever happened in Miami. Well anyway, so that's another essay.
The ma- , a lot of the essays in the book are about men and women; relationships between
men and women. It's a, a subject I never get tired of, of writing about and I try to answer
the question, the fundamental question, why is it so difficult for men and women to communicate
with each other? And I spend a lot of time thinking about that. And I believe I've isolated
the problem: women.
And so I wrote a couple chapters in there designed to answer questions that women have
about men, and part of the point of this is that these aren't really questions. Women,
there are certain things women ask about men all the time and implied in the question is
the answer and the answer is, "because men are idiots."
So, what I wanna do is, I would like to read a, do a little dramatic reading of, of one,
one part of one essay on men and women where I'll, I'll answer questions from women, but
to do that I need a woman to come up here and play the role of a woman.
Yeah, come on up.
And I'll, I hope that I brought it. Yup. It's exciting, huh? She's already regretting this.
Let me turn this into a temporary lectern.
Hi! I'm Dave, and you are...
>>Michelle: Sufficiently female.
>>Dave: Yes, you are.
>>Michelle: Hahahaha.
>>Dave: But do you have an actual name?
>>Michelle: Michelle.
>>Dave: Michelle.
>>Michelle: Hi!
>>Dave: Ok, that's my wife's name. You're not
>>Michelle: No.
>>Dave: Ok--
because my God, what a coincidence that would...hey this would be even better, this thing here.
We'll use this thing.
Don't worry; I know what I'm doing. You're gonna say, "Why is he doing this?"
There. How's that?
>>Michelle: That's good.
>>Dave: Ok, well you have to stand on this side.
>>Michelle: Alright.
>>Dave: Oh, hey!
>>Michelle: Oh, hey!
>>Dave: Wow.
>>Michelle: I have a mic.
>>Dave: It's true about Google being wealthy.
[audience and Michelle laugh]
There's two. Ok, you're gonna be the red...
>>Michelle: Ok, great.
>>Dave: That's good? Make sure you get right, yeah.
>>Michelle: Oh, ok, yeah [inaudible]
>>Dave: We still, is she on? The woman's not on. Michelle, the woman.
>>Michelle: Hello? Ok, awesome. Here we go.
[Michelle laughs]
>>Dave: [ ] Michelles gonna play the part of the woman, I'll play the part of the man.
>>Michelle: Ok
[Dave clears throat]
>>Dave: Don't be nervous.
>>Michelle: No, I'm fine.
>>Dave: Ok. I'm nervous.
[reads from paper]
"I recently conducted a survey of women whom I selected on a scientific basis of being
either a, 1. Friends of my wife, or 2. On the Internet.
[audience and Michelle laugh]
"I asked these women to submit the questions that bothered them the most about men. I got
many, many responses, the gist of which is neatly summarized by my wife's friend, Amy,
who asked"
>>Michelle: "Do wom, do men realize how unfathomably stupid women think they are and if so, why
don't they do anything about it?"
[Michelle laughs]
>>Dave: "Note that this question has a somewhat negative tone."
[audience laughs]
>>Michelle: Hahaha.
>>Dave: "This was typical. Not one woman asked the question that implied men might have any
positive qualities. They did not ask, 'How might', excuse me, "How can men be so darn
rational all the time?' Or, --
'What can men teach women about somehow managing to get through life with fewer than 60 pairs
of shoes?'
"Anyway, my hope is that by giving simple, straightforward answers to these women's questions
using the Q and A format, I can clear up some of the misunderstandings women have about
men. I'll begin with a question that m-m-many of the women asked. A question that seems
to trouble women in general, more than the danger of an Earth-asteroid collision."
>>Michelle: "Why don't men put the toilet seat back down after they pee?"
>>Dave: Because they care.
[Michelle laughs]
[audience laughs]
"Human males are descended from prehistoric tribal warriors--
[Michelle laughs]
who had to defend the women and children in their tribe from vis-viscious, savage enemy
tribes who could attack at any time without warning to rape and pillage and plunder. So
these early males had to be constantly vigilant. They had to pee standing up with their heads
on a swivel. They could not afford to waste precious seconds aiming the pee-stream or
putting down the toilet seat.
Because the enemy might choose just that moment of distraction to strike and perform acts
of vicious, savage plundering on the women and children.
[Michelle laughs]
That was a risk these brave and courageous and manly warriors of long ago were simply
unwilling to take. This same protective instinct is still deeply ingrained in men today, not
that we expect any thanks.
[Michelle and audience laughter]
[audience claps]
>>Michelle: "But prehistoric tribes didn't even have toilet seats."
>>Dave: "Exactly."
[audience laughs]
>>Michelle: Ok, this is long, can I hold the--
>>Dave: Yes.
>>Michelle: Ok.
[Michelle laughs]
"Why don't men listen when we talk? When we want to share our feelings with you, you talk
about things that are important to both of us, our children, our careers, our relationships.
Or when we simply share the details of a trying day to get a little sympathy, why is it that
you barely even bother to hide your lack of interest?
[Michelle laughs]
"How can you care more about some sports event on TV?
[audience laughs]
"Or some, or some unimportant message on your cell phone when then the feelings of the person
who cares about you is always…blah, blah, blah.
[Michelle laughs] [audience chuckles]
"Why is it always our responsibility to worry about 'blah' and 'blah', not to mention 'blah',
while you are unable to even spend two minutes thinking about 'blah'?
"Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Hello? Did you hear anything I just said?"
>>Dave: What?
[audience laughs]
>>Michelle: Ha ha ha. "Why don't men listen to women?" It's in caps.
>>Dave: "We do listen.
[audience laughter]
[clears throat]
"But we listen for specific information. Men are problem solvers. They are doers. When
you talk to them, they are listening to determine A. What the problem is, and B. What they need
to do about it so that they can, C. Resume watching ESPN.
"When they have the information they need they stop listening. In the early phases of
your relationship with a man, he listens to you a lot because he's trying to solve a very
important problem, namely, getting you to have sex with him.
"No matter what you talk about; your work, your friends, the fruit flies of the Riucu
Islands, the man will play, pay close attention because you might give him a clue indicating
how he can get you to become naked.
"Once he has solved this problem, he becomes more selective in his listening.
[audience laughs]
>>Michelle: Ha ha ha ha!
>>Dave: "He will be most alert when you talk about a specific, clearly defined problem
because he can then use his reasoning skills to come up with a solution. For example, if
you tell him that the car motor is making a funny noise, he will listen intently. Then
determine what he needs to do, namely, wait for a few days in case it goes away.
"But when it comes to feelings, the man is in trouble. Scientists using brain probes
have determined that the average man has approximately one feeling per hour versus 850 for the average
woman. So the man is not as comfortable with feelings as you are. When you pour out your
feelings to him, he tries to figure out what the specific problem is so he can take action.
But he quickly becomes confused because there doesn't seem to be a problem. He doesn't understand
what you want him to do.
[Michelle laughs]
"If you tell him you don't want to do anything, you just want him to listen to you and share
his feelings in return, you only make it worse. Because at any given moment he has just the
one feeling and usually along the lines of 'My balls itch.'
"Eventually, the man concludes that for some reason you periodically have a massive, internal
buildup of feelings and it must be released in the direction of another human being. He
adopts a strategy of monitoring these releases for key words or phrases, indicating a problem
that he might have something to do about, such as "fire", "internal bleeding", or "district
"Otherwise, he's just hunkered down waiting for the feelings storm to blow over, maybe
sneaking a peak at the sport's highlights so his time is not completely wasted."
>>Michelle: "But doesn't it occur to men that, because these feelings are important to somebody
he cares about, they should also be important to him?"
>>Dave: What?
>>Michelle: "Nev-nevermind.
"Why do men feel that they must know what's on every TV channel all the time?"
>>Dave: "Back in prehistoric times--
[audience laughs]
when men had to protect their loved ones by peeing standing up, they were also responsible
for feeding their families by hunting. This meant they had to be constantly scanning the
environment, always searching for prey."
>>Michelle: "So you're saying that when men change channels looking for prey--"
>>Dave: "No, breasts."
>>Michelle: "Why are, ha ha, why are men so obsessed with breasts?"
>>Dave: "In many species, males and females use visual cues to attract each other for
the purpose of facilitating reproduction which is necessary to avoid extinction. For example,
the male peacock drags around an enormous tail which he displays to the female peacock,
who responds, 'Whoa. That is some large tail you have. Let's engage in reproductive activity
in the form of getting it on.'
[Michelle laughs]
"Yes, she is treating the male as a sex object but this does not bother him. He does not
think, 'Why is she so obsessed with my tail? It's just feathers for God's sake. She can't
even make eye contact with me.'
"Why doesn't he think this? Because his brain is the size of a Cheerio.
"But also because he knows that unless the female becomes attracted to him, there will
be no reproduction. And if there is no reproduction then peacocks will become extinct. So he is
happy to display this important visual cue to the opposite gender."
>>Michelle: "Are you suggesting that women should go around displaying their breasts
to males?"
>>Dave: "I was talking about peacocks."
But hey, sure!
>>Michelle: "Why do men refuse to read instructions?"
>>Dave: "As we have established, men have a lot on their plate what with protecting
their loved ones, preventing the extinction of humanity, etc. When a man purchases a necessary
appliance such as a TV with a flat screen the size of a squash court--
"he cannot afford to fritter away valuable minutes reading the owner's manual, especially
when the first 17 pages consist of statements like, 'Warning! Do not test the electrical
socket by sticking your tongue into it.'
"A man does not need instructions written by and for idiots. A man already knows, based
on extensive experience in the field of being male, that the way to handle an appliance
is to plug all the plugs into the holes that look to be about the right size or color--
>>Michelle: Ha ha ha!
>>Dave: "the turn everything on and see what happens.
[audience laughs]
"This is a system I use and it proves to be 100 percent effective, roughly 65 percent
of the time.
"Granted, sometimes I have to make some adjustments. Two years ago, I got a high definition TV
and after I set it up, my wife, a woman, complained that the picture did not look like high definition
to her. So I made some adjustments in the form of explaining patiently to her that she
was incorrect.
"because it was a high definition TV and therefore, by definition, the picture she was seeing
on it was in high definition.
[Michelle laughs]
"For months, every time my wife watched television she told me that the picture didn't look like
high definition to her, and I had no choice but to roll my eyes in a masculine fashion
to indicate that she was getting in over her technological head. Then, after we'd had the
TV for about a year, she decided, you know women get these crazy ideas, to look at the
manual. She removed the plastic sheeting and began reading. And on page 28, somewhere after
the warning about not using the TV as a life raft--
"she found a section about inputs and she changed something and there was a dramatic
improvement in the quality of the picture.
"I argued that this could be coincidence.
"That maybe at that exact moment, the TV networks had decided to change from high definition
to even higher definition.
[Michelle and audience laugh]
"But my wife was sure it was because of what she had read in the manual. She even tried
to show me the manual but, of course, I could not look directly at it because of the danger
that my penis would fall off."
>>Michelle: A-ha!
[audience laughs]
"Is that also why men refuse to ask directions?"
>>Dave: "If Man A asks Man B for directions, Man B, realizing Man A is a weak direction-asking
type of male who probably also reads owner's manuals, could decide to attack Man A's village
and plunder his women.
[audience laughs]
"Man A is not about to run that kind of risk. But there's more to it than that. Men are
explorers; they do not follow the herd. If everyone says the best way to get to a certain
mall is to take a certain road because that is the road the mall is located on, --
[audience laughs]
"a man wonders if there might be another, better, as yet undiscovered route to that
same mall. If Columbus, back in 1492, had taken directions from the so-called experts
on how to get to India, he would never have set out in the opposite direction across the
Atlantic Ocean.
[audience laughs]
[Michelle laughs]
"and today there would be no such thing as Microsoft, Dairy Queen, or syphilis."
[audience laughs]
>>Michelle: "So are you basically saying that all the things that women perceive as flaws,
women are actually, a, women perceive as flaws in men, are actually virtues, without which
the human race would today be facing widespread misery, destruction, and death and possibly
even distinc-uh- extinction?"
>>Dave: "Also, no Dairy Queen."
[Michelle laughs]
>>Michelle: "I never realized any of this."
I have to say that? Ok.
>>Dave: Yes.
>>Michelle: Haha. "Now I feel so guilty for all the time that we women have spent thoughtlessly
carping about men.
[audience laughs]
"I feel terrible about our insensitivity and all the pain we must have caused you. I feel--"
>>Audience member: Stop reading!!
>>Michelle: I feel like a small part of me just died, ha ha.
[continues reading]
"Excuse me, are you still listening?"
>>Dave: What?
Ladies and gentlemen, Michelle. Good job.
[audience claps]
She will never volunteer for anything ever again. Well thank you, Michelle, that was
good. You did an excellent job. So, you know what, why don't we, instead of me talk, I'll
take questions on anything. It can be about this book or not about this book or if there's
a problem at home you'd like to share with the group.
[audience chuckles]
That's why we're here.
Oh, wait.
>>Gopi: This [inaudible] will make it work.
>>Dave: Gopi's here.
>>Gopi: I know this will shock you, but we have mic 3 and mic 4.
>>Dave: Wow. Many mikes.
>>Gopi: So, you can go up to the mic, identify yourself, ask a question or post it in [drawrie]
and the link for that is go/askdave. Ok, so people are a little shy to ask or from other
parts that are going to be from far away questions.
>>Dave: I see, you want me to answer that one or is there some--
>>Gopi: Let's..we'll take a question from Pablo and we'll switch back and forth.
>>Dave: Alright.
>>Pablo: This dangerous looking set of green squares--
>>Dave: Yes, you have to stand in it.
[Dave laughs]
Because I have a switch right here. Che-kung!
[Pablo laughs]
>>Pablo: So, so you started writing before the Internet and now, a-a-and so you had this
dedicated audience, the newspaper column, and now you've got all of these other people,
like me, who write things and try to be funny. Do you feel, do you find you reach out in
different ways?
>>Dave: What?
No, I mean, I'm not sure I understand the question to be honest. D-d-do you mean i-if
I, if I have to write more on the Internet, or..? Is that your question?
>>Pablo: Just, do-do-do you find yourself trying to explore, to explore a little bit
to catch that audience that's going…
>>Dave: Not, I mean, I like the Internet. I was, and I think it's here to stay.
But early on I started writing a blog, I mean it's not a real blog, it's more like random
links but, but it, its, I've always had a sort of presence there that I've enjoyed.
I think of that as really different from the kind of writing I do when I write a book or
an a, a newspaper column. I never think that much about reaching any particular audience.
I always figure, well, if somebody else thinks it's funny, that's good enough. And they'll
figure out a way to connect. To me, the Internet has been g-good for me, I think, j-just just
in the sense of reaching more people but I don't think, like, I don't have a strategy
for it, or anything else to be honest.
I had the most random career path in the history of writing. Does that answer your question,
sort of?
>>Pablo: Yeah. Thank you.
>>Dave: Ok, because I didn't understand your question, I--
[audience laughs]
You can ask me state capitals, man, I'm there.
[audience laughs]
>>Dave: But, ok.
>>Tom: Your book this time is about being mature. I know a previous book was "Dave Barry
Turns 50"--
>>Dave: Right.
>>Tom: So, you're in your late 50s, I believe?
>>Dave: 62.
>>Tom: What the hell are you using on your face to look so young?
>>Dave: I al--
>>Tom: Living in Miami, I mean, sun block 5000, or? Hehe.
>>Dave: Well, I don't know the actual number of my sun block.
But no, I always looked young. When I was a, it was, its, its good now, it was bad when
I was young because I looked like, I was the most hair-hairless person in my high school.
[audience laughs]
I was actually voted that.
[audience laughs]
No! They, they had. So, I, I, I always looked like I was in about 4th grade up through,
and it was, it was, it was, I had a brutal social life. You know how women are always
saying that what they really like in a man is a sense of humor. That was, that was such
a lie in my high school. Ha ha.
[audience laughs]
Because I, I had a sense of humor but that's pretty much all I had and it wasn't enough.
[audience laughs]
Not that I'm bitter, I'm not bitter.
[audience laughs]
Was, was there a question? Oh, sun block. Probably around a 40 sun block, I don't know.
>>Tom: And this is unrelated to the bad social life; I didn't know that previously you had
a brother named Sam.
>>Dave: I do.
>>Tom: How much teasing did you get from being Sam and Dave?
>>Dave: Sam and Dave. You know, we're never in the same place that often, but. He's referring
to the, there was a b-a-a-rhythm and blues singing act called Sam and Dave. They were
actually very good. I saw Sam and Dave perform, that's how old I am. But, but I started writing
before the Internet as was pointed out earlier, also before electricity, I was--
[audience laughs]
Anyway, we didn't get mocked for being Sam and Dave. What's your name?
>>Tom: Tom
>>Dave: Tom, ok, I can't think of anything funny to say about that so I'm gonna let you
go, Tom. Yeah.
>>Red: So, you, you were saying state capitals? North Dakota?
>>Dave: North Dakota would be Pierre. Or is that South Dakota?
>>Red: South Dakota.
>>Dave: Ahh, there's no--
>>Red: They named the way street [inaudible] right?
>>Dave: there's really no difference between North and South Dakota. It's time somebody
[audience laughs]
I, I once got an, I just got to say, I, I got in so much trouble with North Dakota once.
I wrote a col- I was looking for something to write a column about once and I came across
an article in the newspaper that there had been a, a conference in North Dakota of all
the state tourism officials and whatever, trying to figure out how to get, how they
could improve the state's image because people, people don't want to go to North Dakota, people
don't want to stay in North Dakota when they live there. If you go to north Dakota, they'll
pull you over and say, "Hey, you wanna be in the Legislature?"
[audience laughs]
And, and, so one of the things they talked about in this conference, this is what I wrote
my column about was, their, they were talking about ma-maybe they can improve the image
of the state somehow and one of the things they considered was changing the name of the
state from North Dakota to Dakota.
[audience laughs]
Which is, you know, I don't know, would that make you want to go there suddenly, instead
of Hawaii?
[audience laughs]
So, I wrote a column making fun of that, of, of North Dakota and that was a huge mistake.
If you don't learn anything else today, learn this: Do not mess with North Dakota.
[audience laughs]
First of all, I got an angry letter from everybody in the state, which is nearly 115 letters.
[audience laughs]
But second, and this is the really fiendish part of the North Dakota revenge scheme, they
invited me up there in January and dedicated a Sewage Lifting Station in my honor. This
is absolutely true. If you go to Grand Forks, North Dakota, for any reason, such as your
plane has crashed there, there is a brick building and on it, in foot high letters,
metal letters, it's says, "Dave Barry Lift Station #16". Really, and inside is the equipment
that lifts the sewage, which is a concept I do not understand. I would leave the sewage
down there, you know? In North Dakota, they lift it. That is how bored they are.
[audience laughs]
Anyway, they had this ceremony, and it, it's honestly the coldest I've ever been in my
life. It was way below zero, and we're standing, we actually got a crowd out there and we're
standing in front of it, they put a brown piece of paper over the, the sign for the
big dedication ceremony and the mayor of Grand Forks read a proclamation, very eloquently
comparing my work to the production of human excrement.
And at the big moment, they had me tear the, the, the piece of paper of it, and I remember
seeing the, my name on the sign of this building and smelling the sewage in the cold North
Dakota air and hearing "powp, powp, powp, powp, powp, powp", which is the sound of people
applauding in mittens.
[audience laughs]
That was my North Dakota experience.
>>Red: Well, I, I had a quick second question as well. Your "Year in Review" is one of the
primary ways that I keep track of what happens from year to year and I'm sure it's the same
for millions of Americans who--
>>Dave: Which is one thing that's wrong with this country.
[audience laughs]
>>Red: I was wondering if you could go into more detail as to how you create that. Do
you save snippets throughout the year, like a giant file folder?
>>Dave: No, I, I should, b-but it, I do it pretty much the way I got through college
as an English major, is to wait until the last minute
and take amphetamines. No, no! Noooo!
[audience laughs]
That would be so wrong, no. I don't even know where to get them anymore.
[audience laughs]
So, so, but I, I, I do it kind of all at the end. It actually takes me almost two weeks
of pretty much non-stop, but I get a, I get a printout of all the, I do a lot of Googling
during this phase of my year and get a, a, get a, all the headlines for the year and
then I start trying to come up with jokes that can, that can be turned into running
jokes. Like I know now that at some point there's going to be a, an oil spill section.
I just don't know what the humor part will be. It doesn't seem that funny at the moment.
[audience laughs]
My solution for that whole thing, by the way, you're probably saying, "Well, what should
we do?" We need to relocate the Gulf of Mexico.
[audience laughs]
It has been nothing but problems, everything we've had. Hurricanes start there, now there's
oiling. Put it near some other country. That's my, I, and I'm, I don't really know how specifically
we do that but I'm more of a big picture guy.
[audience laughs]
>>Red: Thanks.
>>Dave: Yup. Any other...yes?
>>Older Male: I, I've been following you a long time and I really get--
>>Dave: I know, and I'm getting a restraining order.
>>Older Male: I know.
[audience laughs]
I have a 16- year old son who thinks that I am pretty stodgy and, and, don't know all
the words that he's insisting that I learn. I wonder if it's, if you think it's safe to
introduce him to your book and how would I best do that?
>>Dave: Can he read?
[audience laughs]
>>Older Male: Yes, he's a very good reader.
>>Dave: Then he's probably pretty familiar with the whole, the way with the sequentially
numbered pages and all that.
[audience laughs]
>>Older Male: Uhhhh--
>>Dave: The whole book thing, I mean--
>>Older Male: Yes, he is.
>>Dave: I'd just give it to him and say, "Read this or I'll kill you."
[audience laughs]
It's time he learned.
>>Older Male: That doesn't work.
[audience laughs]
>>Dave: No, I know. You know what does? I tell ya. I believe in parenting by embarrassing.
[audience laughs]
I, and I-I-I-I've said this for a long time that the mistake that we make, I, I have two
kids. This is the mistake you make as a parent, is you try to get their love and respect,
and that works great until they reach the age of 12 or 13 months.
[audience laughs]
The sooner they start to tal, they start to figure out you're a dork. And by the, by the
time they're 16, you know, they, you're, they don't want to be, really they don't want anything
to do with you. However, you develop, you, at the same time, an incredible power of embarrassment
over them; it's very strong. And most parents, its parents are reluctant to use it. They
think it's bad when they embarrass their children but it's actually a very effective control
technique. If you're in a public place with it, a, an adolescent child, is giving you
any trouble, just don't say, "You're gonna be grounded", or something like that, so.
They ask you
Well, I was just walkin' down the...
Sing! sing!
Boy that will stop them, whatever they're doing. If you will stop singing, they will
do anything you want.
[audience laughs]
Alright, they will, try that, try the..when I found this out, my, my son, Rob, he's now;
he's now 29-years old so I can't really do these things. But when I learned the power
of embarrassment, how really strong it was. He was 13. He was in middle school and I got
a call at the Miami Herald from the Oscar Meyer Corporation saying they were bringing
the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile to Miami. The Weinermobile, I'm sure you've seen it, it's
a giant fiberglass hot dog in a bun with a loudspeaker, this is sound but of course the
Weinermobile has been here. Everybody comes to go.. and it, there are actually six Weinermobiles.
I don't know if you knew that. We, this nation leads the world--
[audience laughs]
in Weinermobile technology. Although, Iran is developing one. But anyway, they like to
get publicity for the Weinermobile so they call me up at the Miami Herald and say, "We're
bringing the Weinermobile to Miami. Would you like to drive it for a day?" And I said,
"Heck yes."
[audience chuckles]
I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to pick my son up in middle school.
[audience laughs]
Because there he is in peer pressure hell, you don't know. Never forget the moment Rob
came out of the, of the school, and there's all these moms in their minivans and looming
up behind is a really big hot dog--
[audience laughs]
with a loudspeaker going, "Rob Barry, please report to the Weinermobile."
[audience laughs]
I'll tell you, if a 13-year old could suffer a heart attack, he would have. And I know
what you're thinking, at the end of the day it was fun for you, but you scarred your child
psychologically for life. Yes, but it was worth it.
[audience laughs]
Maybe you can get the Weinermobile.
>>Male in Glasses: So, this was alluded to in the introduction but will you be running
again in 2012 and do you have anything in your platform other than the low-flush toilets?
>>Dave: I, I'm always running in the sense of accepting contributions.
[audience laughs]
I'm not that active a campaigner. Well I think, I, I, I think I probably will run. I think
I'll be more aiming at the healthcare situation this time around. My big, I think they missed
the, a major opportunity to help the American public, particularly the one sector in the
American public. I read with this recent Healthcare bill, I really don't care what else we do
about healthcare in this country, but we need to find a way for the medical profession to
get to the prostate gland other than the way they're getting to it now.
[audience laughs]
I'll tell you, what I think we should have; we need a procedure where the doctor stands
about 80 yards away and goes, "Looks good from here, Dave."
[audience laughs]
That would be the cornerstone of my candidacy.
[clears throat]
>>Male in Plaid: Do you find yourself doing less self-censorship of the subject matter
that you write about since you moved to the digital world from newspapers?
>>Dave: Definitely, you can, you can, that was the most limiting, was writing for newspapers.
My column ran a whole lot of newspapers and every one of them had an editor and every
one of those editors could cut whatever he or she wanted to. Some of them very carefully
went through them and cut out all the funny parts no matter what I wrote about or left
just the set-ups and took away all the punch lines.
[audience laughs]
I once wrote a column that the, the joke of the column was that I had not bothered to
do any research, so I would write like, "As the old saying goes, a man without woman is
like a tractor without a (editor, please put important tractor part here)." And it ran
that way in most newspapers except for one paper where the editor went through and looked
up the important tractor parts. Uuug!
[audience laughs]
I got all this mail from the readers saying, "Boy, that column didn't seem that funny,
[audience laughs]
So, but I, I think yeah, you can be much, much looser on the Internet and, and in books.
Although, I don't know, I-I, I'm not really famous for being really rough, raw in humor
except for with my friends and I really have so few of those.
[audience laughs]
Anyway, anymore? I'm really not sure what the timing is supposed to be. Yes?
>>Woman #1: Hi, I was just wondering if you could speak a little bit about how you got
your start in comedy writing.
>>Dave: Yeah.
>>Woman #1: And maybe what's helped you to be so successful.
>>Dave: I, I went, I went, when I got out of college as an English major, so I, when
I got out of college, I went to Haverford College in Pennsylvania and I got out with
no useful skills whatsoever. I mean, unless you counted being able to name metaphysical
poets or something. But you never saw an ad that said, "We're looking for people who can
name metaphysical poets." And there were, so I, I, went to work for a newspaper called
the Daily Local News in Westchester, Pennsylvania, and that was actually the name, "Daily Local
News", sounds like the newspaper SuperBoy delivered.
And it was, it was one of those, it was a very small-town paper, like small-time news.
Like if somebody were to grow a, a zucchini that looked, that had, looked like Dwight
Eisenhower or something we'd take a picture of it and put it on the front page. That was
big news at the Daily Local. We actually, we had a front page, it's not the best edited
newspaper in the world, we had a front page story with the headline once, "Women Beats
Off Would-be Rapist."
[audience laughs]
So anyway, but it was really good training for me. I, I, I covered everything. I wrote
obituaries, I went to school board meetings, and I went to all these, and, but, while I,
while I did that, once a week I would write a column, a little column because it was a
little paper. You could write and do whatever you want. And I had written some col-, some
humor columns in high school and college but this was actually in a real newspaper and
I liked it. I would write a column and it would run once a week. They weren't paying
me to do it but that's what I did. When I left there to do other things, for
awhile I, I was teaching Effective Writing seminars to businesspeople, which was a weird
job but it was, it was good for me. It got me around the country but I kept writing my
column for the Daily Local News in Westchester, Pennsylvania, and they were paying me 22 dollars
a week to do that. So I was, I was in my 30s at this point so I clearly, I didn't think
of this as a career option, just write this little column. And then my son was born and
I wrote an essay about natural childbirth that ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer. And
basically, it was a, a, I, the perfect time for this because I'm a baby boomer and the
baby boomers do everything together and they always think they're the only ones who ever
did it. And at this point we were having babies and it never occurred to us that previous
generations might have done that also.
[audience laughs]
It was a big deal; we had babies. And we, of course, because we were the baby boomers,
we had to think of a special way to have babies. It was called "natural childbirth" [inaudible]
the idea was that instead of, like when my mother had me the system was they gave the
mother drugs, a lot of drugs, and she woke up when you like, in the fourth grade.
[audience laughs]
And it was a damned good system. Everybody, you know, but then by the time we came along
we had to have a better system and our system was you wouldn't need drugs because you practiced
these relaxation techniques and breathe in a certain way. And we went to these classes
where you breathe and practice and breathe. And it was, well, when we actually got into
the childbirth part where the baby coming out part, don't try and tell a woman in that
situation to just breathe a certain way. Be glad she doesn't have a revolver if you do
because basically they're just screaming for drugs at that point. And so the-there, it
was a, I remember sitting there in the room listening to not only my wife but all these
other women, you know, I have , all going, "Aaaaaaahhhhh!!", which was not what they
had, you know.
So I wrote an essay about the difference between the, the childbirth classes and the actual
childbirth. And it ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday magazine and it was the first
big sale I ever had as a sense-of-humor piece. And it did really, really well. Everybody,
all these people my age, all the editors at all the newspapers were my age, everybody's
going through the same thing, they all thought it was great. I, I, a couple days after that
ran, I got a call at home from the editor at the Chicago Tribune Sunday magazine, saying,
"I read the piece on natural childbirth and I want to reprint it in my magazine." And
I thought, "Wow, that's pretty cool."
Now, I had gotten paid 350 dollars, which is the most I had ever been paid for writing
something, for that piece. And he says, "How much do you want for it?" And I think, "Well,
I already got the 350", so I said, "Well, how about 50 dollars?"
[audience laughs]
And there's this pause, and he goes, "How about 500 dollars?"
[audience laughs]
So I said, "Ok."
[audience laughs]
If I'd have been smart, I'd have gone down to 25 and, and he'd, you know.
[audience laughs]
He'd have probably gone to one thousand but I took the, I took the 500. But anyway, that
was my st- break in two ways. One is that suddenly more, and after that a whole lot
of other newspapers wanted to print that. But also I discovered that, this wonderful
thing that you could write something and make more than 22 dollars for it.
That, that really was how I, I, I, I think I was just lucky in several ways. I was lucky
because I was in this giant, massive humanity all going through the same experiences and
I was lucky that I came along when newspapers were strong and successful and they had magazines,
which they don't have any more. Most of my career would not be possible now, I don't
think. You'd have to; you'd have to go some other way to, to make it as a writer now.
That's, I don't even remember what you're question was.
[audience laughs]
I'll stop talking now before I get to--
>>Gopi: You will probably have time for two questions. We'll take the last one from the
floor and we've trained our computers to ask you some questions.
>>Dave: Let me ask you, does he just always have a microphone on when he walks around--
>>Gopi: This is all, we're all wired. The whole company is this way.
[Dave laughs]
>>Dave: That would be so great, yeah?
>>Blueshirt Man: Dave, who makes you laugh?
>>Dave: Now, a lot of, ok, I'll name a human, Roy Blount, Jr., who is in my band and is
the funniest person I know. I just say it because I just spent a week with him, but
what really, where I think the really great humor writing is now is on television. Shows
like Glee, and The Office, and Parks and Recreation, and Community. There are all these really
well-written, 30-Rock, really well-written sitcoms; much better than they used to be.
There, there was all this talk about the Golden Age of Comedy and there was, you know M.A.S.H.
and all that and All in the Family. This is way, way more golden. Where we are right now
is fabulous. I don't know who they are though. I, I guess I know the South Park guys, who
they are but most of them you don't know who they are. But the shows are really, really
terrifically funny so I have to say I get more laughs now, like I'm more reliably amused
now by watching television than I am by reading most things now. And I think that's kind of
what happened because people are always saying, "Where are the humor columnists of tomorrow?"
And I says, "There is no humor column for them to write. The newspapers are disappearing."
Thanks to you guys, no.
[audience laughs]
I don't really blame Google for that. I think it's just, we are the, w-w-w-we're the perfect,
where the newspaper industry is, is a perfect example of why you should never allow an industry
to be run by English majors.
[audience laughs]
We could have handled it all differently, I think. But, but that's, that's where I think
they're going. That's where I think smart, funny writers go now. And it's too bad because
you don't know who they are; at least I don't know who they are. But I think they're really
good, whoever they are.
Yeah? I surprised you--
>>Gopi: We can take one more from--
>>Dave: Yeah, I'm just going to answer the ones that people go like, yes, no? No.
[audience laughs]
[more laughter]
>>Gopi: We're done then. Thank you so much for joining us. Ladies and gentlemen, Dave
[round of applause]
>>Dave: Thank you so much.
[jazz music plays]