In the introduction to Dave Barry Is Not Taking This Sitting Down, the author addresses the desirability of his job as a humor writer and syndicated columnist. "It looks so easy!" he wrote. "...Every year, hundreds of thousands of people try their hand at this demanding profession. After a few months, almost all of them have given up and gone back to the ninth grade."
Yes, Barry is juvenile at times -- but he has achieved the kind of success that can only come from combining a juvenile mind with intelligence, timing, and a keen eye for the absurd. Favorite Barry targets include government inanity, dogs, guys, the Internet, and other oddities of life. He also specializes in weird news and urban myths involving UFO hunters, Pop-Tart science, and toilets. Many of these essays feature the line that has become his catchphrase, "I am not making this up." (Unless, of course, he is introducing something serious and daunting such as a book about the federal government, in which case he reassures that he has made everything up.)
Usually, though, he's not making it up. What he's doing is making it very funny. Whether the target is Congress or commercials, Barry refuses to take anything seriously, least of all himself – but he manages to convey some pretty indicting truths in the process. He's a master of irony and visual punchlines, sometimes interrupting himself with lists, snippets of dialogue, or other on-topic digressions. On the subject of turning 50 and dealing with waning eyesight (a "good thing" about aging, because "you can't read anything"), Barry describes finding restaurant menus suddenly printed "in letters the height of bacteria." He continues: "For some reason, everybody else seemed to be able to read the menus. Not wishing to draw attention to myself, I started ordering my food by simply pointing to a likely looking blur.
ME (pointing to a blur): I'll have this.
WAITER: You'll have "We Do Not Accept Personal Checks"?
ME: Make that medium rare."
Barry has had the most successful and prolific publishing career of any working newspaper columnist, and his humor never seems to go out of style. In 1999, he decided to try his hand at fiction. The result was Big Trouble, a comic thriller à la Carl Hiassen (though filled more with gags than guns) that Entertainment Weekly proclaimed "... not only very funny, [but] sure-footed, even-handed, levelheaded, and other leading book review adjectives." In 2004, he and Ridley Pearson collaborated on Peter and the Starcatchers, a clever prequel to Peter Pan that spawned two additional novels and a series of spin-off children's chapter books.
Along with several other published authors, Barry is a member of the musical group Rock Bottom Remainders. In assessing the band's talents, he has been quoted as saying: "They are not musically skilled, but they are extremely loud."
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The Rock Bottom Remainders was originally organized by a publicist to perform at the 1992 American Booksellers Association convention. The members -- which include (or have included) Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson, Barbara Kingsolver, Mitch Albom, and Matt Groening -- even took their show on the road at one point, turning it into the now out-of-print Mid-Life Confidential: The Rock Bottom Remainders Tour America with Three Chords and an Attitude.
Some things never change: Barry was elected class clown by his Pleasantville High School class in 1965.
Barry got his start in journalism at the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pennsylvania, then worked as a business writing consultant before joining the Miami Herald in 1983.
Attempts to convert Barry's humor to the screen have been less than memorable. The early '90s CBS sitcom based on two of his books and starring Harry Anderson, Dave's World, was short-lived; the spring 2002 release Big Trouble, starring Tim Allen, didn't fare well at the box office. Barry did, however, get a cameo in the latter.
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