Funnier than Danny Kaye, more powerful
than Jerry Lewis, as important as
acid. That was Paul Krassner to me during the 1960s. I'll explain.
As America entered the Magic Decade, I was leading a double life. I had
been a rule-bender and law-breaker since first grade. A highly developed
disregard for authority got me kicked out of three schools, the altar boys,
the choir, summer camp, the Boy Scouts and the Air Force. I didn¹t trust
the police or the government, and I didn't like bosses of any kind. I had
become a pot smoker at 13 (1950), an unheard-of act in an old-fashioned
Irish neighborhood. It managed to get me through my teens.
But my career goals had a different flavor. From the earliest age, I
had wanted to be a comedian--like Danny Kaye or Jerry Lewis. It was an
understandable goal for someone who didn't quite fit in, but it was a
decidedly mainstream dream. To get ahead, it required playing by the rules
and pleasing the public, mostly on their own terms.
So that's what I did. My affection for pot continued and my disregard
for standard values increased, but they lagged behind my need to succeed.
The Playboy Club, Merv Griffin, Ed Sullivan and the Copacabana were all part
of a path I found uncomfortable but necessary during the early 1960s.
But as the decade churned along and the country changed, I did too.
Despite working in "establishment" settings, as a veteran malcontent I found
myself hanging out in coffee houses and folk clubs with others who were
out-of-step people who fell somewhere between beatnik and hippie. Hair got
longer, clothes got stranger, music got better.
It became more of a strain for me to work for straight audiences. I
took acid and mescaline. My sense of being on the outside intensified. I
All through this period I was sustained and motivated by The Realist,
Paul Krassner's incredible magazine of satire, revolution and just plain
disrespect. It arrived every month, and with it, a fresh supply of
inspiration. I can't overstate how important it was to me at the time. It
allowed me to see that others who disagreed with the American consensus were
busy expressing those feelings and using risky humor to do so.
Paul¹s own writing, in particular, seemed daring and adventurous to me;
it took big chances and made important arguments in relentlessly funny
ways. I felt, down deep, that maybe I had some of that in me, too; that
maybe I could be using my skills to better express my beliefs. The Realist
was the inspiration that kept pushing me to the next level; there was no way
I could continue reading it and remain the same.
My changes took a year or two and, as the '70s rolled into view, I found
my comic voice, just as The Realist found countless rich targets in Nixon,
Agnew, Kissinger, and the many Republican criminals who paraded through our
lives. Not even disco could dim Paul's light, and in subsequent years it
has grown only brighter, as these pages and his earlier books will attest.
Readers of Playboy, High Times, the L.A. Weekly and the Los Angeles
Times all have benefited from his informed sense of outrage, his intelligent
dissent and his ever-lively spirit of civic mischief. The fun and laughs
are simply bonuses. You will find them all present in this collection of
reminiscences, reportage, illuminations, fantasies and just plain
By the way, I still have my collection of The Realist from the '60s and
'70s. I keep them in a cheap plastic, red-white-and-blue, American-flag
shoulder bag inscribed on the side, "1968 Democratic National Convention."
I wasn't there--I was represented by Paul Krassner.