The biggest news to hit the humor world was an unanticipated announcement by Dave Barry several years ago that he would be taking a permanent leave of absence from his weekly humor column. He was not making this up. To the journalist world this was as shocking as the Pope announcing he is taking an indefinite leave from the Vatican, or a veteran politician announcing that he is taking sabbatical leave from Congress.
Who is Dave Barry, you say? Oh, I love you if you are reading my column and don’t know the answer to that. He is kingpin, top banana, big cheese, head honcho, role model, and guru of the humor columnist world. All other humor writers are measured by how they compare to Dave Barry. Guess that puts me so low on the totem pole that I don’t even need to look for my yardstick.
Dave Barry is the only humor columnist EVER to win a Pulitzer Prize for writing, and he didn’t even know he was running. Never mind that it was years ago. He still holds the championship humorist title, which is better than having first rights to the remote control.
Is he really that good – or that much better than the rest? Most of us don’t think so, and wonder how 500 editors who ran his syndicated column can be so wrong. On the other hand, it is nice that humor writing was once recognized as a worthwhile endeavor – even if only once.
Dave Barry broke the glass ceiling for humor writers and made it a worthwhile effort instead of an worthless endeavor. Because of him and a few other greats, such as Lewis Grizzard and Erma Bombeck, humor has been recognized as the artistic endeavor that it is, proving that our mothers were wrong and we are not hopeless losers who can’t get a real job.
Many columnists write for nearly nothing just to get exposure. We hope the Miami Herald has a bulldozer and is ready for an avalanche of resumes hoping to replace Barry. His absence will leave a great, gaping hole that other humor writers hope to fill with funny columns. Thing is, no one can replace Dave Barry. Fact is, a writer worth their printer cartridge doesn’t want to. Writing is personal and individual. We each develop our own style if we ever hope to excel and don’t try to be just like someone else. No one has filled the hole left when Erma Bombeck died – though many are still trying.
Dave says he was worn out from covering conventions, the Olympics, and going on book tours all in one year. Poor baby! Most humor writers will never be sent anywhere by anyone to write humor about anything. But the thing is we will still write our humor. Writing isn’t a choice. We do it because we have to.
So, goodbye Dave! We’re going to miss you. We read you, we laughed with you, we loved you, we envied you, we admired you – and to tell the truth, we still do.