Foreword by Arianna Huffington
Seven years after 9/11, seven years after Ari Fleisher warned Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, seven years after Graydon Carter declared the death of the age of irony, seven years after Politically Incorrect was pushed off the air, and 279 years after Jonathan Swift made his Modest Proposal that Irish children be sold as food, we seem to be living in a Golden Age of political humorand especially political satire: Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, viral YouTube videos, and after 33 years on the air, the rebirth of Saturday Night Live, which went from Is that still on? to MustSeeTV (or at least Must See on YouTube).
They are all standing on the shoulders of the great comedic bomb throwers of the past: Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, the Smothers Brothers, the gang at National Lampoon.
And Paul Krassnerconfidant of Lenny, co-founder of the Yippies, defiler of Disney characters, publisher of The Realist, investigative satirist extraordinaire.
As soon as we decided to create the Huffington Post, I knew I wanted Paul Krassner involved. His irreverence was just what the blog doctor ordered. He posted three times during the week we launched and has been at it ever since. One hundred and fifty-seven posts and counting. But who's counting?
For the longest time, American humor had lost its bite. Punch lines with a purpose, satire in the tradition of Jonathan Swift, savage wit at the service of passionate conviction had given way to the domesticated yucks of sitcoms, late night jokes, and official Washington dinners where politicians and the media skewer each other in harmless ritual combat without any fear that things might be different in the morning (Stephen Colbert's legendary scorched-earth performance at the White House Correspondents' dinner in 2006 was the exception; Rich Little's painfully bad 2007 follow-up the rule).
All the while, Krassner was toiling away, tilling the comedy soil and planting the subversive seeds that would flower into the bumper crop of satire we are harvesting today.
Katie Couric's multi-part interview with Sarah Palin was the turning point in how the country saw Palinand by extension John McCain. But it was Tina Fey's pitch-perfect take on Palin, replayed endlessly on YouTube (and HuffPost) and passed along virally online, that delivered the coup de grace. It was a comedy mugging for the ages.
Jon Stewart is now the most trusted name in news for the Facebook set. Stephen Colbert's truthiness perfectly defined the Bush administration's denigration of facts. South Park and Family Guy routinely draw blood with drawn characters. Doonesbury still regularly delivers a knockout punch.
And Paul Krassner keeps delivering incendiary journalism. This collection includes some of his best. Don't miss the bit on Palin Porn (No anal required).
Lewis Lapham identified the satirist's work as the crime of arson, meaning to set a torch of words to the hospitality tents of pompous and self-righteous cant. And that great satiric arsonist Mark Twain wrote that exposure to good satire makes citizens less likely to be, as he put it, shriveled into sheep.
The great satirists have always been passionate reformers challenging the status quo. I once called up Paul for a column I was writing and asked him how he saw his job. Sometimes, he told me, humor is just a way of calling attention to the contradictions or the hypocrisy that's going on officially. That's the function of humorit can alter your reality.
Krassner has been altering our reality for going on 50 years. In the process, he has inspired the work of manyincluding John Cusack, who says that Krassner's radical approach to truth-telling informed his film War, Inc.a savage, reality-altering take on Iraq.
When, in 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote A Modest Proposal, he was seeking to turn a spotlight on the indifference toward the twin Irish crises of over-population and hunger. His proposal was to feed young children to hungry men. I have been assured, he wrote, that a young healthy child, well-nursed, is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked or broiled; and I make no doubt in that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.
In this book, Krassner carries on that savory tradition.
Read it and laugh. And wince. And become outraged. And laugh some more.