—From the Author's Notes ofDave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States
David "Dave" Barry (born 1947) is an American humor columnist, his weekly column in The Miami Herald was also syndicated nationwide. Despite the national attention, many of his columns had a quirky, Only in Florida vibe to them. In addition to his status as a journalist, Barry is also a bestselling author. The majority of his books are humorous nonfiction or compilations of his columns, but he's also written several novels. The two stand-alones are Big Trouble (which was made into a movie) and Tricky Business (he has since written a third, Insane City), as well as co-authoring a novel called Lunatics with Alan Zweivel. He also co-authored a series of Peter Pan inspired novels with Ridley Pearson, beginning with Peter and the Starcatchers.In addition to his writing career, Barry performs in a band, The Rock Bottom Remainders, with Al Kooper, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson, and Mitch Albom.He's also one of the few people to get a sitcom based on himself, called Dave's World. It aired from 1993 to 1997 on CBS, with Barry portrayed by Harry Anderson.
The Alleged Car: Barry has owned several, and his father several more ("THE HILLMAN MINX!") In one column, talking about classic cars, Barry said he intended to buy a Chevy Vega. Or whatever's left of a Vega, probably a bag full of iron oxide powder.
"So by today's nitpicky standards, the Vega was not so much a motor vehicle as a paperweight with a horn."
"No, today's cars are just not exciting. I've thought about getting a fun old car, like a GTO or a vintage Mustang. But then I'd have to keep it garaged, find a mechanic, etc. So maybe instead I'll just get a vintage Vega. I'll keep it in a Tupperware container, which I'll carry in my glove compartment. When I encounter other vintage-car guys, I'll lower my window, and shake my Vega at them. That way they'll know that, inside my Actuary, I am still cool."
Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Barry is one himself, and many of his columns make note of this. He once picked his son up from school in the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile.
Attack of the Political Ad: Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway has an entire chapter parodying campaign ads in which two candidates for Congress run ads against each other using the same TV announcer and the same dog and illustrated with "actual newspaper headlines" and grainy black-and-white photos of the opponent embracing Darth Vader and Adolf Hitler and abusing animals. The ads are so successful in scaring people away from voting for each other that, come election day, voter turnout is zero.
"I'm Bob Humpty, and I think it's time to stop name-calling and start talking about where we stand on the issues. I believe it's wrong to have sex with anykind of farm animal. I realize that my opponent disagrees with me. But I think we can debate this issue in a positive manner, without negativity and lies and threats by my opponent to kidnap my baby daughter."
He also makes mention of "an alert reader" whenever he mentions a fan.
Bank Toaster: Mentions this in one of his books, remarking how the only question banks used to ask was if you wanted the toaster or the electric blanket.
Bavarian Fire Drill: He and several cartoonists got into the 2000 Democratic National Convention by dressing up in dark suits and sunglasses, and sticking phone cords in their ears to pretend they were the security detail for Richard Riordan, then-mayor of Los Angeles. (The mayor was in on it, but the convention's security detail and doormen were not.)
And every Christmas he does a Holiday Gift Guide featuring some of the damn weirdest things you'll ever see. Bull Scrotum Handsack, anyone?
He lists his coworkers as follows: Judi, Dave's Research Department, as well as being interested in men, and Walter, a bone from the penis of a walrus.
Commitment Issues: In Dave Barry's Complete Guide To Guys, men are said to be afraid that they'll get in a relationship and get married and have kids and get old and one day they'll be walking down the beach and see a single guy relaxing in a hot tub with several supermodels and invite him and he won't be able to join them AAAIIIEEEEE!! He notes that to get the same amount of love and devotion with more reliability than a man, you might as well get a dog.
Convenience Store Gift Shopping: He wrote that one time he saw his wife buy one of those ridiculously small decorative boxes (you know, the ones that could maybe hold a walnut, if you're lucky) without even knowing when or for whom it would be used as a present. Apparently you can fall into this trap even when you aren't shopping for anyone in particular.
"Anyway, since you and I are such superior drivers, I wanted to share with you an excellent idea that was sent in to me by Florida motorist Damara Hutchins, who is also above average. She begins by noting the annoying behavior of certain motorists, especially the ones who drift along in the left, or 'passing,' lane, mile after clueless mile, never passing anybody and never noticing the line of motorists behind them flashing their lights, honking their horns, making explicit hand gestures, firing marine flares, etc. So anyway, here is Damara Hutchins' idea, which I'm told is similar to a concept proposed by the comedian Gallagher: powerful bumper-mounted sucker-dart guns. You would shoot these at other motorists when they did something stupid. Ideally, you could fire several different colors of darts, to indicate the type of infraction."
"We see this all the time. Journalists, rushing to get a story out under deadline pressure, will report, based on preliminary information, that a ship sank, and 127 people, many of them elderly, perished. Then, upon further investigation, it turns out that nobody, in fact, perished, although one elderly person was slightly injured by a set of dentures hurled by another elderly person in an effort to get the first elderly person to stop talking so loud. Then it turns out that this happened at a nursing home, as opposed to a ship, although the elderly people were watching a video of Titanic at the time, and although there were only four of them, as opposed to 127, the nursing home is located on Route 124, which is only three less than 127, which is not that much of an error when you consider the deadline pressure that journalists operate under."
Deadly Road Trip: What will happen to tourists in Miami; not so much death as massive scamming and pickpocketing.
Department of Redundancy Department: In Dave Barry Turns 50: "10 Signs That You Might Be Losing It." Number 1: "You tend to forget things." Number 6: "You tend to forget things." Number 10: "You tend to forget things."
In Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs Dave Barry awards Paul McCartney the Certificate of Redundancy Certificate (though inaccurately, for a mishearing of the line "if this ever-changing world in which we're livin'" from the song "Live in Let Die" as "if this ever-changing world in which we live in").
Dinner Order Flub: Dave explained in his column "The Evil Eye" that he was getting too nearsighted to read restaurant menus, so he just points randomly at something which turns out to be his napkin, and tells the waiter, "I want that medium rare." This joke also appears in Dave Barry Turns 50, with a medium-rare order of "We Do Not Accept Personal Checks."
Also appears in Turns 50, where he witnesses the introduction of the miniskirt:
It was dangerous for males to go outside, because they tended to develop a medical condition known as Miniskirt Rapture, wherein you'd be watching a woman walk in an extremely short skirt, and with every step a glimpse of underpants would come your way—glimpse glimpse glimpse—and your brain was so busy receiving this vital information that it stopped paying attention to anything else, and the next thing you know, you were being run over by a municipal bus, which happened to be on the sidewalk because the driver was also devoting his entire brain to receiving panty glimpses.
Dogs Are Dumb: He's received hate mail because of this belief, from readers who have apparently failed to notice his references to a long string of dogs in his life and home.
He mocks this in one column, in which he avoids saying that dogs are stupid by substituting "stupid" with "loyal". He then explains how he's trying to avoid angry mail from fans who write to him about how dogs are actually intelligent. He adds a bit of a Take That with "I guess from their perspective, dogs are intelligent, but let's not go there".
Don't Explain the Joke: In one column (published in Dave Barry Talks Back), he briefly indulged in this after receiving one too many letters from people who didn't grasp that he was joking when he wrote something. The rest of the article was written with "closed-captioning for the humor-impaired," in which he explained every single joke he made immediately after making it.
No item is ever allowed to appear in Mister Language Person until trained grammarians have indicated their approval by barking at it in an excited manner. (those are not grammarians. those are his dogs.)
Doom It Yourself: The Taming of the Screw, parts of Homes and Other Black Holes, as well as occasional columns.
Doomy Dooms of Doom: He transformed into "The Avenging Death Killer of Doom" when playing Laser Tag.
Early-Installment Weirdness: His works before Slept Here are noticeably less biting, less profane, and less heavy on running gags. Also, the illustrator was Jerry O'Brien instead of Jeff MacNelly.
"One could see a sign for 'Goendownenundergroundenpayenfairenridearoundentrainen' and easily deduce that it means 'subway.'"
Express Lane Limit: A running joke. Rules about the Express Lane are presented as amendments to the U.S. Constitution in Dave Barry Slept Here and Dave Barry Hits Below The Beltway. Dave Barry in Cyberspace refers to the Supreme Court decision in the case of Mrs. Bernice A. Whackerdorfer v. A Bunch of Really Angry People Waiting in Line Behind Her.
Fish out of Water: The basis for a great deal of self-deprecating humor in Dave Barry Does Japan.
Foreign Cuss Word: His column "Europe on Five Vowels a Day" gives three "idiomatic expressions" commonly used by foreigners, with translations. "Ach du lieber!" and "Caramba!" are both translated as "Darn it!" The French phrase "Zut alors!", however, is translated as, "Look! A lors!"
In Dave Barry In Cyberspace, he makes a list of strange websites and one is devoted to cursing in Swedish.
"Perspective" is derived from two ancient Greek words: "persp," meaning "something bad that happens to somebody else," and "ective," meaning "ideally somebody like Donald Trump." The very word "insect" is a combination of two ancient Greek words: "in," meaning "a," and "sect," meaning "repulsive little creature." The hypothesis—which comes from the Greek words "hypot," meaning "word," and "hesis," meaning "that I am looking up in the dictionary right now"...
And thus it was that on election day, October 8, 1968, the voters went to the polls and elected, as leader of the greatest nation that the world has ever seen, President Richard Milhous N... President Richard M... President R... Please don't make us do this.
Gag Words: Usually a new one in every column. Such as brassiere brassiere brassiere
IKEA Erotica: Played for Laughs in Dave Barry in Cyberspace with a "cybersex" session including the ridiculous line: "I AM THRUSTING MY MASSIVE KNOCKWURST OF LOVE INTO YOUR PASSION PERSIMMON!" And then it turns out that the guy is Al Gore. The woman he's doing it with? Tipper Gore. And neither of them knew at first.
Averted in the same book.
Woman: "Wow! that is a very large virtual penis!"
Man: "Yes, it can be any length I want! Fifty feet for example!"
Japanese Politeness: Mentioned throughout Dave Barry Does Japan. Since Japanese people think it's rude to say "No," he includes a chart of acceptable euphemisms they will use instead of no, such as "We will see," "It will be difficult," and "Yes."
"They were a bit shocked when they saw the crowd, but then they heartened when they heard the 'awww.' (Get it? Shock and awww! Ha ha! Never mind.)"
Late to the Punchline: Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway has a parody of the American Constitution in which Article I, Section 8 reads "Section 8 has been intentionally left blank." This is much, much funnier if you know that in the actual Constitution, Section 8 is the section that gives Congress all of its legal power.
Little Known Facts: He gives out several of these "facts" throughout his columns, especially in the guise of Mr. Language Person:
Q. What are metrosexuals?
A. They are individuals who have sex (also known as "bling bling") on subways.
Lots of Luggage: He once described this type of individual as someone "whose idea of 'roughing it' means 'turning the air conditioner to medium'".
Matzo Fever: Enough to marry a Jewish woman and respectfully attend her synagogue despite being an atheist.
Men Can't Keep House: Dave mentions sharing an apartment with a fellow young male. It lacked furniture, but this allowed them to play Indoor Ricochet Death Frisbee. Another one is when a reader tells him he has boxed up a ton of old junk and arranged the boxes into ugly brown furniture. His girlfriend fails to see the simple genius of this arrangement, obvious to any male.
Mondegreen:invoked He devoted an entire chapter to this in Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs, commenting that his bad song voting produced many votes for "Ain't No Woman Like the One-Eyed Gott." He had a lengthy section on various attempts to spell the chorus of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," and the chapter began with his misinterpretation of the Beach Boys' song "Help Me Rhonda."
Dave Barry Turns 40 has a chapter attacking conservatives and a two-page, dead-serious ode to his mother inserted among all the humor.
Dave Barry Turns 50 has a few moments in his year-by-year chronology when he gives his viewpoints on the issues of the day, including observations on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and attacking the politicians who helped start the Vietnam War.
Dave Barry Does Japan has a chapter on visiting Hiroshima on the anniversary of the bombing. To show that it's a notably non-funny section, dark gray pages mark the beginning and end of the chapter. It then comes up again in the conclusion; see Sincerity Mode below.
Boogers Are My Beat ends with serious columns written on 9/11 and one year later. In the author's notes he remarks that many people have requested that he speak on serious issues more often, since he has an outlook and tone that comforts them. Dave immediately counters with the observation that he wishes precisely the opposite, since such essays require something horrible to happen. And he wouldn't wish that for anything; he'd rather stick to the booger jokes.
Dave Barry's Greatest Hits has a (much shorter than usual) column written about the death of his father.
Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up has a chapter on music that begins with an absolutely poignant look back at Elvis, then goes into his survey for the worst songs ever.
The same book also has an article in which he talks about when his son was hospitalized after being in a car accident. He even lampshades it in the end: "I'm sorry. This was supposed to be a hilarious column about how Beth and I were getting ready to go our for a nice dinner at 6 P.M. and wound up eating lukewarm cheeseburgers at 11 P.M. on a table in the Miami Children's Hospital emergency room; and how Rob, after politely thanking a very nice nurse for helping him sit up, threw up on her; and other comical events. But this is how the column turned out. Next week I promise to return to Booger Journalism."
My Friends... and Zoidberg: It's hard to remember a time he's talked about "humanity" or "humankind" without adding "and X," where X is any group. Example: "The time has come that we, humans and congressmen alike..."
My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need plays with this by having translation guides that mostly consist of random sentences in English like "Show me the fish of your brother Raoul" (variants of which become a Running Gag). The foreign translations were mostly just gibberish.
Nice to the Waiter: "A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person."
Q. Listen, I, ummm, I have this kind of weird sexual hangup, which is that I, ummmmm... this is very embarrassing...
A. Go ahead! Say it! Don't be ashamed! That's what we're here for! To help!
Q. Okay, but I want to whisper it. (whisper whisper whisper)
A. My God! Really?
Q. Um, yes.
A. The Joint Chiefs of Staff?
Q. Well, yes.
A. How do you get the hamsters into the accordion?
Also from Dave's columns; "how to have some real 'old-fashioned' Halloween fun! Start by gathering these materials: a commercial air compressor, an acetylene torch, a marine flare gun and 200 pounds of boiled pig brains. Next, select a neighbor who ..."
Nose Nuggets: There are countless booger jokes present throughout his work. One of his books is even titled Boogers Are My Beat.
When he went to Japan he gave a few of his books to his guide to help explain what kind of writer he was. The first question the guide asked was "what is a booger?" Dave noted that sophisticated humor concepts can sometimes fail to cross language boundaries.
Played with, as well — he actually makes more jokes about making booger jokes than actual booger jokes.
He even devotes the start of a column to reminding viewers of this, just so that he won't get people asking about the truth of the column — Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump.
And on occasion, when he's reporting something genuine but really ridiculous, he'll say something like "I'm pretty sure I must have made this up."
Older Than He Looks: He's always looked young for his age — it's hard to believe even now that he's in his 60s. Barry joked about this once by telling People magazine that "I reached puberty at 30. At 12, I looked like a fetus."
Only in Florida: 90% of his columns' subject matter, as well as an extensive chapter near the end of Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway.
The Parody: "Fangs of Endearment" from his book I'll Mature When I'm Dead amounts to a parody of the Twilight series and borders on Take That. He also has a joke script to an episode of 24 that reads more like a deconstructive Affectionate Parody (for one, the President is a kangaroo… and a female one at that).
Person As Verb: From Dave Barry Slept Here, regarding signing of the Declaration of Independence (October 8, 1776): "The members took turns lighting sparklers and signing their John Hancocks to the Declaration, with one prankster even going so far as to actually write 'John Hancock.'"
Police Code for Everything: Apparently in Butler County, Pennsylvania a code 10-84 means "Turkey in Fighting Posture." (A turkey crashed through the windshield of a dump truck and scared the driver with a "fighting posture.")
Porky Pig Pronunciation: Dave Barry In Cyberspace compares reading typewritten documents to "listening to Porky Pig try to complete a sentence" because of all the mistakes that have to be crossed out.
Purple Prose: Parodied in I'll Mature When I'm Dead, where he writes a long passage of a fictional novel, including passages expounding on how the IKEA furniture has left the main character's hands gnarled, and the female character is from a town in Wales where a 47-year-old woman held up French soldiers with a pitchfork (no, really).
Rapid-Fire Comedy: Barry can make booger jokes, historical in-jokes, pop culture references, and puns in the same short article. To say that every other sentence he writes is a punchline would be underestimating him. Counting for inflation, it's more like every six out of three.
Reality Subtext: Dave Barry in Cyberspace features a sub-story about two lovers who meet online, supposedly based on how Dave met his (current) wife online. The male in this story has the screen name "RayAdverb," an anagram of his name.
Rule of Funny: The very thing that allowed him to get paid to write whole columns' worth of booger jokes.
Running Gag: His work is practically made of running gags.
The 2008 Year in Review had Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac scrambling for money by buying Powerball tickets, betting on the Pats to win the Super Bowl, applying as candidates on Deal or No Deal, etc.
"Speaking of trouble, the economic news continues to worsen with the discovery that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have sent $87 billion to a Nigerian businessman with a compelling e-mail story."
"In yet another troubling economic indicator, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rob a liquor store."
"The federal government is finally forced to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac after they are caught selling crack at a middle school."
All the mentions of THE HAWLEY-SMOOT TARIFF in Dave Barry Slept Here:
"Quite frankly, we have no idea what this is, but we think it has a wonderful ring to it, and we just like to see it in large bold letters: THE HAWLEY-SMOOT TARIFF."
"Nevertheless, [Franklin Roosevelt] began immediately to combat the Depression, implementing a series of bold and sweeping new programs that came to be known, collectively, as THE HAWLEY-SMOOT TARIFF."
Said book also had the government-mandated mentions of the "accomplishments of women and minorities." And to make it easier for people to remember important historical dates, they were all changed to October 8 (his son's birthday).
Don't forget the Giant Prehistoric Zucchini from Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway.
"Results-oriented multitasking hands-on team-building problem-solving take-charge self-starter with enterprise-wide cross-functional productivity-enhancement management-specific capabilities including all phases of conceptualization, implementation, integration, augmentation, allocation, irrigation, fermentation, lactation, plantation, and antidisestablishmentarianism served over field greens with a balsamic vinaigrette."
Significant Anagram: If he can find a funny anagram in something, he will reference it several times in the article or book. See also "RayAdverb," above.
Furthermore, he feels that an anagram generator is an essential computer program for anyone to have.
Sincerity Mode: Several spots in Dave Barry Does Japan. Especially the ending, where he concludes that Americans should learn respect and responsibility from the Japanese, while the Japanese should learn from the Americans how to lighten up and be less conformist, "because nobody's perfect".
In 2008, he wrote a column about getting a colonoscopy after his brother was diagnosed with colon cancer. The article starts out in its usual joke-y mode, then ends with him essentially encouraging all 50-somethings to get one done — because if a weenie such as he can do it, then so can you. People even sent him letters saying that they did so.
I was staying at a luxury Hyatt hotel. There was a little plastic sign in the bathroom that said: "Our towels are 100 percent cotton. Should you wish to purchase a set, they are available in the gift store. Should you prefer the set in your bathroom, a $75 charge will automatically be added to your bill." This was Hyatt's polite way of saying, "If you steal our towels, we'll charge you 75 bucks." So I stole the sign. Really. I kept it in my guest bathroom for a couple of years, to amuse guests.
"In sports, the entire nation rejoices as the World Series is won, yet again, by a team other than the New York Yankees."
The state of North Dakota actually gave him a Take That after he made several disparaging jokes about the Dakotas: they invited him to Grand Forks, North Dakota and officially named a sewage lifter after him.
Several columns were dedicated to readers submitting their most hated music or commercial (the Charmin commercial, apparently).
He was asked to play a corpse in an opera after writing about how opera is hazardous to one's health.
The Other Darrin: Somewhat jarring to long-time avid readers when in his columns, "my wife Beth" suddenly became "my girlfriend Maria" (later wife) with no explanation given (granted, its kind of a personal matter not usually discussed in booger-joke columns). Although astute fans get a slightly fictionalized account of what happenend in Dave Barry Does Cyberspace, as mentioned above.
Toad Licking: "I'd like to remind all my readers, especially you impressionable young people, that if you must lick a toad, make sure it's wearing a condom. Thank you."
Totally Radical: "If you read your newspaper carefully, you'll notice that you're seeing fewer stories with uninviting, incomprehensible, newspaper-ese headlines like PANEL NIXES TRADE PACT, and more punchy, "with-it" headlines designed to appeal to today's young people, like PANEL NIXES TRADE PACT, DUDE."
Trade Snark: Dave Barry In Cyberspace features a Running Gag of referring to Microsoft's products with trademark symbols after the names, including one long sequence in which other bizarre symbols are put after things, such as "Windows 95BILLGATESISAWIENER."
"The work is titled Rubbish Bag, and to judge from the photograph in the Times, it is a standard black plastic garbage bag, just like the ones you put your garbage in, except that you have to pay people to haul your garbage bags away, whereas Floyer got $47,000 for hers. There is a compelling reason for this: Floyer's bag is empty. That's what makes it artistic."
"An alert reader named Jane Weaver sent me an article from the London Daily Express stating that Bedford Creative Arts decided to pay a performance artist named Andre Stitt about $19,000 to, among other innovative things, kick an empty takeout-curry carton through the center of town. In case you're wondering why that would be artistic, the answer, as far as I can tell, is that Stitt was going to wear silver platform boots. Tragically, this work of art had to be canceled. It got a lot of media attention, and Bedford art officials were afraid that too many people would show up to watch. Don't you just HATE it when the public shows up to watch public art, paid for by the public?"
Unusual Euphemism: "Duck shoe," "a very bad word that, to protect its identity, I will refer to as 'wucking,'" and so forth. Some come from the fact that he wrote for a family newspaper (it's got a wife and a baby newspaper back home) that won't let him swear; others are just for the sake of being silly.
There's also the time he got revenge on two newspapers (the Portland Oregonian and St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that refused to print a column he wrote about Beano on the grounds that it was tasteless...by writing a column about circumcision, in which he described the operation as "taking hold of a guy's Oregonian and snipping his Post-Dispatch right off." He continued to use these two codewords throughout the article.
In an article about low-flush toilets, he refers to "Number two" as "an act of Congress." He closes the article with "Congress is just full of acts."
Invoked in one of the "discussion questions" in Dave Barry Slept Here.
How come there are never any sex scenes in history books? You know, like "James Madison, unable to restrain his passion any longer, thrust his ink-engorged pen into the second draft of the Federalist papers."
Weirdness Magnet: Dave often attributes the seemingly disproportionate number of weird events that happen in Florida to what he calls the Giant Underground Weirdness Magnet.
Windbag Politician: According to him, the real reason Cuban troops were found all over the world in the seventies and eighties was because it was preferable to staying in Cuba, where they have to listen to extremely long speeches.
Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Wrote a column advocating a tax of $50,000 per instance per year on any business employing it in their title and signage. (e.g. "Ye Olde Shoppe" should be charged $150,000/year.) Any more than that, and the owner should be taken out and shot.