Dave Barry's newest (book, that is) is entitled I’ll Mature When I’m Dead: Dave Barry’s Amazing Tales of Adulthood. In it he tackles many urgent issues, from the large-scale—mortality, religion (his is “joketarianism”), health-care reform—to the picayune, including waiting-room TVs and where all those body toxins truly go when you take a mud bath.
Q: How much truth is there to the rumor, started by you, that the recession was caused by your having given up your weekly newspaper column in 2005?
A: (Laughs) Well, I’m not saying that was the entire cause of the decline of the economy and the newspaper industry, but you do have to notice the coincidence, you know? I stop writing my regular column, the economy goes to hell, the newspaper industry goes into a steep decline…
Q: It is suspicious.
A: I’ll say!
Q: There’s a chapter in your book entitled “A Practical, Workable Plan for Saving the Newspaper Business.” It’s subtitled “I Sure Don’t Have One.”
A: No, I really don’t. That’s one of the sadder chapters in the book, in a way, although I tried to make it funny. But the truth is, I don’t think anybody has a clue what to do to save the newspaper industry. And every passing day, it gets smaller and weaker and less able to do what it’s supposed to be doing.
Q: What do you think it’s going to look like five years from now? And what will that mean for humor columnists?
A: The answer to A is that I think it’s going to be almost entirely online unless somebody figures out a way to pay reporters—especially investigative reporters. The answer to B is that the humor writers of the world left newspapers a while ago anyway. They’re online much more. They’re in television, in film—mostly, though, the Internet. There’s a lot of very funny people there.
Q: Do you read those other “funny people,” or do you simply feel too threatened by them?
A: (Laughs) There’s this guy Bill Simmons. He writes for ESPN. He’s very, very funny. But that’s a guy you see almost entirely online.
There’s lots of my cohorts I still read for humor. Roy Blount, Jr., and Carl Hiaasen, folks like that.
Q: Your professed faith is joketarianism—that’s not a real religion, is it?
A: Well, it’s real to me. (Laughs) Hey, it’s as real as Scientology.
Q: What official role would you serve in such a church?
A: If there were a joketarian church, it wouldn’t have any hierarchy. It’d be more like whoever came up with the best line at that particular moment could be the Pope for now. But then very quickly somebody else would come up with a better line.
Q: Like Pope for a Day?
A: Pope for a Minute.
Q: Pope for a Tweet.
A: For a Beat.
Q: You have a lot to say about the American health care system. You don’t sound all that convinced, for example, that the government should run it.
A: No—and who on earth would? As I say in the book, there are intelligent, educated, and well-meaning people out there who seriously believe that we should let Washington redesign our health-care system. It goes without saying that these people live and work in Washington; where else could you find intelligent, educated, well-meaning people who are that stupid?
I’m setting aside, for now, the whole issue of what’s right and what’s wrong. The question is whether the federal government has ever shown any competence to do anything on a big scale other than get bigger. I don’t think it has! I basically don’t want the federal government to have anything to do with my own personal body. (Laughs)