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Thread: Paul Krassner RIP

  1. #1

    Default Paul Krassner RIP

    NY Times, July 22, 2019
    Paul Krassner, Anarchist, Prankster and a Yippies Founder, Dies at 87
    By Joseph Berger

    He was a prankster, a master of the put-on that thumbed its nose at what he saw as a stuffy and blundering political establishment.

    And as much as anyone else, Paul Krassner epitomized a strain of anarchic 1960s activism — one that became identified with the Yippies as they nominated a pig for president and rained dollar bills onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Along with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin and a few others, Mr. Krassner helped found that group.

    He was the founder and editor of The Realist, among the earliest underground humor magazines, one that was known for outlandish and raunchy cartoons and iconoclastic political and social commentary. Its contributors included Norman Mailer, Jules Feiffer, Terry Southern, Joseph Heller, Mort Sahl, Edward Sorel and Robert Grossman. With some very long breaks, it endured into the 21st century.

    Yet so naturally irreverent was Mr. Krassner that when People magazine labeled him the “father of the underground press,” he demanded a paternity test.

    In all, he helped propagate a certain absurdist sensibility that encouraged people like the cartoonists R. Crumb and Art Spiegelman and the comedian George Carlin to be more daring in mocking the insanities and hypocrisies of war, politics and much of modern life.

    Mr. Krassner died on Sunday at his home in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., his daughter, Holly Krassner Dawson, said. He was 87. She did not give a cause, but said he had been in hospice care.

    Mr. Krassner was writing freelance pieces for Mad magazine in 1958 when he realized that there was no equivalent satirical publication for adults; Mad, he could see, was largely targeted at teenagers. So he started The Realist out of the Mad offices, and it began regular monthly publication. By 1967 its circulation had peaked at 100,000.

    “I had no role models and no competition, just an open field mined with taboos waiting to be exploded,” Mr. Krassner wrote in his autobiography.

    The magazine’s most famous cartoon was one, drawn in 1967 by the Mad artist Wally Wood, of an orgy featuring Snow White, Donald Duck and a bevy of Disney characters enjoying a variety of sexual positions. (Mickey Mouse is shown shooting heroin.) Later, digitally colored by a former Disney artist, it became a hot-selling poster that supplied Mr. Krassner with modest royalties into old age.

    The Realist’s most famous article was one Mr. Krassner wrote portraying Lyndon B. Johnson as sexually penetrating a bullet wound in John F. Kennedy’s neck while accompanying the assassinated president’s body back to Washington on Air Force One. The headline of the article was “The Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book,” and it claimed — falsely — to be material that had been removed from William Manchester’s book “The Death of a President.”

    “People across the country believed — if only for a moment — that an act of presidential necrophilia had taken place,” Mr. Krassner told an interviewer in 1995. “The imagery was so shocking, it broke through the notion that the war in Vietnam was being conducted by sane men.”

    Avery Corman, the author of “Kramer vs. Kramer” and other books, whose first essays appeared in The Realist, called Mr. Krassner “a cultural pioneer.”

    “The pieces he wrote himself and the material written by others were saying to people that what we’re told by the establishment and the media may not be true, may be distorted, and at that time that was not an accepted idea,” Mr. Corman said in a 2016 interview. “For young people trying to dope out what the world was like, being a Realist reader was a way of distinguishing yourself: ‘I’m not gullible, I’m skeptical.’”

    By the 1970s, The Realist was struggling financially and being published more haphazardly; for years it did not come out at all. In the mid-1980s it was revived as a newsletter. It ceased publication in 2001.

    Mr. Krassner was also the keeper of the legacy of one of his mentors, Lenny Bruce. He edited Bruce’s autobiography, “How to Talk Dirty and Influence People” (1965), and was nominated for a Grammy Award for his 5,000-word liner notes to a collection of Bruce’s nightclub routines, “Let the Buyer Beware.”

    Mr. Krassner in 2009. He once said: “It’s strange to be 70 and still identify with a youth movement. But I’d rather identify with evolution than stagnation.”CreditEric Reed/Associated Press
    Encouraged by Bruce, Mr. Krassner often took to the stage, delivering comic monologues at nightclubs like the Village Gate. He and his East Village friends also dreamed up pieces of public tomfoolery.

    In one, in 1968, a group of 60 hippies chose to turn the tables on tourists streaming into the East Village to gape at its scruffy, longhaired denizens. With cameras dangling from their necks, the hippies hired a Greyhound bus for a sightseeing tour of the tidy middle-class neighborhoods of Queens.

    In 1967, Mr. Krassner, Hoffman and friends formed an organization to meld hippies and earnest political types. Mr. Krassner dreamed up the name Youth International Party — Yippie for short.

    Their theatrical shenanigans included streaming to Washington to “levitate” the Pentagon and organizing a nighttime “yip-in” at Grand Central Terminal to celebrate spring; it drew some 3,000 revelers, prompting nightstick-swinging police officers to charge the crowd and arrest 17 as protesters yelled “Fascists!” The press seemed transfixed by their antics.

    “It was mutual manipulation,” Mr. Krassner said, reflecting on his life in an interview for this obituary in 2016. “We gave them good stories and sound bites, and they gave us free publicity.”

    In August 1968, the group made its way to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and held a festival that, along with antiwar protests, prompted another police charge, this one bloodier. Television cameras caught what a national commission was to term “a police riot.” Hoffman and Rubin were among those convicted of crossing state lines to incite a riot, though those convictions were reversed on appeal. Mr. Krassner was named an unindicted co-conspirator.

    Paul Krassner was born on April 9, 1932, in Brooklyn, the second of three children. His father, Michael, was a printing compositor for The Long Island Star-Journal who had a cynical streak and, according to his son, worried about efforts by government and business “to manipulate the human mind.” His mother, Ida, who had immigrated as an infant from Russia, was a legal secretary and instilled in him the maxim “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

    Paul was a violin prodigy, playing a Vivaldi concerto at Carnegie Hall when he was 6, but he gave up practicing regularly because he found his instructor too controlling. Still, he traced his bent for humor to that Carnegie Hall recital. When in midperformance he tried to soothe an itch in his left leg by scratching it with his right foot, the audience burst out laughing, and he realized he loved that sound more than the applause for his playing.

    He was bar mitzvahed, but, he said, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima had already persuaded him to identify as an atheist. He attended the Baruch campus of City College, though he dropped out three credits short of a degree, disappointing his parents.

    “They had learned by then that I was a rebel,” he said.

    He was already earning money working for The Independent, a newspaper run by the anti-censorship crusader Lyle Stuart. It turned out that Mr. Stuart was also the business manager of Mad, and Mr. Krassner began writing humor pieces for it.

    Mr. Stuart also gave him a list of subscribers to a small progressive magazine that was closing down, and Mr. Krassner managed to persuade 600 of those readers to buy his satirical replacement, The Realist.

    An interview in the magazine with a doctor who performed abortions at a time when they were illegal led to Mr. Krassner’s first foray into serious activism. After receiving calls from women seeking information about how they, too, could obtain abortions, he set up a service to refer pregnant women to qualified doctors. He was subpoenaed by two different district attorneys but never prosecuted.

    With the decline and demise of The Realist, Mr. Krassner had to scratch out a living, and eventually Social Security checks were a mainstay. He wrote columns for magazines like High Times and Adult Video News and blogs for The Huffington Post (now HuffPost). He served a short stint as publisher of Hustler. In 1994 he published a memoir, “Confessions of a Raving Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counter-Culture,” which he later updated, and he also produced three collections of reminiscences about people’s experiences with marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms and other drugs.

    Mr. Krassner’s first marriage, to Jeanne Johnson, ended in divorce. In addition to his daughter, from his first marriage, his survivors include his wife, Nancy Cain; a brother, George, and one grandchild.

    In 2003, Mr. Krassner joined with others surviving Yippies to form a speakers bureau, charging several thousand dollars for talks to college audiences.

    “This is the antiwar equivalent of a veterans’ group,” Mr. Krassner told The New York Times. “It’s strange to be 70 and still identify with a youth movement. But I’d rather identify with evolution than stagnation.”
    "I think it would be a good idea." Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilization.

    The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
    Karl Marx.

    "Well, he would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies, 1963, replied Ms Rice Davies when the prosecuting counsel pointed out that Lord Astor denied an affair or having even met her.

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    Very sad news to hear of the loss of a friend! I met Paul about 33 years ago when I was one of the 'regulars' along the Venice, CA boardwalk, and he was living in the area then too. I had heard of and read his Realist long before I met him. Almost daily he would come to my political table against war, Reagan, Iran-Contra, covert operations, and many other related matters and talk with me and others who dropped by about those and other issues of the day. He was as funny in person as he was on paper in his publications. He was a very kind and intelligent man. He used his political humor to DO something, to CHANGE things for the better and was not the 'clown' so many chose to see him as - if they knew of him at all. That period was his low financial point and he was always musing about how to make some money with his political humor. Some would recognize him at my table and ask for autographs or take a photo. I never found a historical or political topic he was not fully 'up' on, and he always expounded on it with both intelligence and humor. I know he suffered several health problems in his last years. He was a fixture among anti-establishment cognoscenti of my era. I'm very sad to hear he has died, but he lived a rich life of rebellion and I think he made a difference - more than most can say. He had the strangest group of friends anyone could - Lenny Bruce, Wavy Gravy and a very long list of both mainstream and off-off-off mainstream types. Rest in Peace my good man! Your brand of Mad Realism was most welcome in my life and that of many others - it [and you!] will be missed. From a friend and a fan; and thanks for the many cogent intelligent conversations and the laughs. Another bright light from the '60's' [as well as after] has gone out. Alas.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

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    The complete set of 146 issues of the Realist, edited and much written by Paul Krassner can be downloaded free here http://ep.tc/realist/index.html

    One of my favorites: http://www.ep.tc/realist/groucho-acid/

    Notable contributors include:




    Paul Krassner calls himself an investigative satirist. Don Imuslabeled him “one of the comic geniuses of the 20th century.” And, according to the Los Angeles Reader, “Krassner delivers 90 minutes of the funniest, most intelligent social and political commentary in town.”

    On the other hand, a couple of FBI agents went to one of his performances and stated in their report, “He purported to be humorous about government policies.” His FBI files indicate that after Life magazine published a favorable profile of him, the FBI sent a poison-pen letter to the editor, complaining: “To classify Krassner as a social rebel is far too cute. He’s a nut, a raving, unconfined nut.”

    “The FBI was right,” says George Carlin. “This man is dangerous – and funny; and necessary.”

    ABC newscaster Harry Reasoner wrote in his memoirs, “Krassner not only attacks establishment values; he attacks decency in general.”So Krassner named his one-person show Attacking Decency in General, receiving awards from the L.A. Weekly and DramaLogue. He is the only person in the world ever to win awards from both Playboy (for satire) and the Feminist Party Media Workshop (for journalism).

    When People magazine called Krassner “Father of the underground press,” he immediately demanded a paternity test. Actually, he had published The Realist magazine from 1958 to 1974. He reincarnated it as a newsletter in 1985. “The taboos may have changed,” he wrote, “butirreverence is still our only sacred cow.” The final issue was published in Spring, 2001.

    His style of personal journalism constantly blurred the line between observer and participant. He interviewed a doctor who performed abortions when it was illegal; Krassner then ran an underground abortion referral service. He covered the antiwar movement; then co-founded the Yippies with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin (writing a few animated re-enactment scenes for the documentary “Chicago 10” four decades later). He published material on the psychedelic revolution; then took LSD with Tim Leary, Ram Dass and Ken Kesey, later accompanying Groucho Marx on his first acid trip.

    He edited Lenny Bruce’s autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, and with Lenny’s encouragement, became a stand-up comic himself, opening at the Village Gate in New York in 1961.Ten years later – five years after Lenny’s death – Groucho said, “I predict that in time Paul Krassner will wind up as the only live Lenny Bruce.” He was nominated for a 2005 Grammy Award in the Album Notes category for his 5,000-word essay accompanying a 6-CD package, Lenny Bruce: Let the Buyer Beware. Krassner rarely works the comedy-club circuit, preferring to perform on campuses, at theaters and in art galleries.

    He has been a guest on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher; on Air America Radio with Janeane Garofalo and on with Marc Maron. He hosted his own radio call-in show in San Francisco.

    Paul is an occasional contributor to the Huffington Post.His articles have appeared in Rolling Stone, Spin, Playboy,Penthouse, Mother Jones, the Nation, New York, National Lampoon, Utne Reader,the Village Voice, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, theL.A. Weekly, New York Press, High Times and Funny Times.

    His venues have ranged from the New Age Expo to the Skeptics Conference,from a Neo-Pagan Festival to the L.A. County Bar Association, from a SwingersConvention to the Brentwood Bakery, where members of the audience were eachgiven a free pastry of their choice. Over the years, he has built up a cultfollowing that has steadily been edging into mainstream awareness.

    His reviews have been highly complimentary. The New York Times: “He is an expert at ferreting out hypocrisy and absurdism from the more solemn crannies of American culture.” The Los Angeles Times: “He has the uncanny ability to alter your perceptions permanently.” The San Francisco Chronicle: “Krassner is absolutely compelling. He has lived on the edge so long he gets his mail delivered there.”

    He was head writer for an HBO special satirizing the 1980 presidential election campaign, did on-air commentary for the Fox network's Wilton-North Report, and — a decade after poking fun at Ronald Reagan — was a writer on Ron Reagan's syndicated late-night TV talk show.

    Mercury Records released his first two comedy albums, “We Have Ways of Making You Laugh” and “Brain Damage Control.” Artemis Records released his next four: “Sex, Drugs and the Antichrist: Paul Krassner at MIT,” “Campaign in the Ass,” “Irony Lives!” and “The Zen Bastard Rides Again.”

    His autobiography, Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counter-Culture, published by Simon & Schuster, sold 30,000 copies.An expanded edition is now available on Paul's website and also asan e-book on Kindle.

    His other books include:

    The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race: The Satirical Writings of Paul Krassner, with an introduction by Kurt Vonnegut

    A trilogy of anthologies: Pot Stories For the Soul, with an introduction by Harlan Ellison,Psychedelic Trips For the Mind and Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs: FromToad Slime to Ecstasy

    Impolite Interviews

    Murder At the Conspiracy Convention and Other American Absurdities, with an introduction by George Carlin

    One Hand Jerking: Reports From an Investigative Satirist, with a foreword byHarry Shearer and an introduction by Lewis Black

    In Praise of Indecency: Dispatches From the Valley of Porn

    Who's to Say What's Obscene: Politics, Culture & Comedy in America Today, with a foreword by Arianna Huffington.

    In May 2004, Krassner received an ACLU Uppie (Upton Sinclair) Award for dedication to freedom of expression. At the 14th annual Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, he was inducted into the Counterculture Hall of Fame – “my ambition,” he claims, “since I was three years old.”

    And in December, 2010, the writers' organization PEN honored him with theirLifetime Achievement Award. “I'm very happy to receive this award,”Paul concluded in his acceptance speech, “and even happier thatit wasn't posthumous.”
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

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    Paul Krassner was an icon of the 1960s, yet his words and cultural influence resonated right up until his death this past week at the age of 87. Krassner called himself an investigative satirist, and People magazine once referred to him as “the father of the underground press.”
    In 1958, he founded the Realist magazine, which he often referred to as “the magazine of the lunatic fringe.” It folded in 1974 but carried on as a newsletter up until 2001.
    He also coined the word “Yippies” — co-founding the political organization in 1967 with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin — and dropped acid with Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Ken Kesey, and Groucho Marx.
    As a stand-up comic he was mentored by Lenny Bruce and later edited Bruce’s autobiography. His writing appeared in dozens of publications — he was an early contributor to Mad magazine — and Mercury Records released his early comedy albums. He hosted a talk show in San Francisco under the name of Rumpleforeskin.
    Krassner was a longtime voice for what he saw as the cover-up of the Kennedy assassination and gained even more notoriety for writing and publishing a book that he referred to as the “missing chapter” from The Death of a President, historian William Manchester’s account of the JFK assassination. Jacqueline Kennedy tried and failed to block the publication.
    Back in July of 2009, exactly ten years ago, WhoWhatWhy podcaster Jeff Schechtman had the opportunity to record a lengthy conversation with Krassner. As an interesting look back to another time, we now share that conversation with you.

    Click HERE to Download Mp3

    Full Text Transcript:
    As a service to our readers, we provide transcripts with our podcasts. We try to ensure that these transcripts do not include errors. However, due to time constraints, we are not always able to proofread them as closely as we would like. Should you spot any errors, we’d be grateful if you would notify us.
    Jeff Schechtman: Welcome to the WhoWhatWhy podcast. I’m your host, Jeff Schechtman.Paul Krassner was an icon of the ’60s, but his words and his cultural influence carried right up until his death this week at the age of 87. He was a violin prodigy as a child, and then a success as a stand-up comic. He liked to call himself an investigative satirist, and People Magazine called him the father of the underground press. He founded The Realist Magazineback in 1958 and published it through 2001.
    Jeff Schechtman: For many years, his style of personal journalism blurred the line between observer and participant. He covered the antiwar movement and cofounded the Yippies with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. He published material on the psychedelic revolution and then dropped acid with Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, and Ken Kesey. As a standup comic, he was mentored by Lenny Bruce, and then he edited Lenny Bruce’s autobiography. He hosted his own radio call-in show in San Francisco and was the head writer for an HBO special satirizing a presidential election campaign.
    Jeff Schechtman: Mercury Records released his first two comedy albums, We Have Ways of Making You Laugh and Brain Damage Control and his articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mother Jones, and The Nation. His autobiography was titled Confessions of anUnconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counterculture. But George Carlin really has the final word on Krassner. Carlin said, “This man is dangerous and funny and necessary.”
    Jeff Schechtman: Back in July of 2009, exactly 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to record an extended conversation with Krassner, and the following 30 minutes are part of that conversation.
    Jeff Schechtman: The title, Paul, of your newest book is Who’s To SayWhat’s Obscene?: Politics, Culture, and Comedy inAmerica Today. As we look at obscenity in politics and comedy in America today, hypocrisy really is the new obscenity in some ways.
    Paul Krassner: Oh, yeah. The most recent example of it are these people, governors and senators, who have these affairs, yet they’re the same ones who have campaigned against same-sex marriage, against adultery. People like Gary Condit, who was a leader in the fight to get Bill Clinton impeached. He himself later on had an affair with an intern, Chandra Levy. Somebody asked William Bennett, the morality czar, if that wasn’t hypocritical, and Bennett said, “Well, hypocrisy is better than having no values at all,” and that became my mantra.
    Jeff Schechtman: Talk a little bit about comedy today. We have a whole bunch of young people today that get their news from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and the link between news and reality and satire seems to be closer than it ever was since the ’60s.
    Paul Krassner: Yeah. Well, it used to be what Steve Allen said, “That comedy is tragedy plus time,” but then there’s been an acceleration of everything including the rate of acceleration is accelerating and so it became less of a space between a tragedy and a comedy until they were happening simultaneously. For example, Jay Leno told the joke about the Waco-Davidian cult that was there while it was burning. It was still in the process of burning, and the joke was that there were two kinds of members of the cult there now regular and crispy. It’s a cute joke, but it was just strange to hear it while the fire was in progress now, so that was simultaneously. Now there were jokes about Michael Jackson even before he was buried. So it’s now sort of that tragedy is comedy plus time.
    Jeff Schechtman: How much of that is because we have trouble getting our heads around anything, getting to understand anything in this 24/7 news cycles, accelerated culture, you’re talking about, that the only way we can come to grips with it sometimes is through comedy.
    Paul Krassner: That’s part of it, but part of it is the need for topicality, and so writers for comedy shows… I was the head writer once for an HBO satire of the election in 1980 and writers would come to me and say, “I can’t find the funny in this.” This kind of desensitization that goes on where comedy writers have to find something because it’s in the news, even though it hasn’t been digested yet. The implications of the news haven’t been savored yet, and a lot of them aren’t really making any points, that sarcasm passes for irony, and easy reference jokes. So Ted Kennedy used to be the reference for a fat joke, but then he got brain cancer and the tumor and he stopped being the joke, and they would put somebody else in. And audiences, they don’t always laugh. They just applaud, and it’s as if they’re really applauding themselves because they recognize the reference.
    Jeff Schechtman: It’s interesting. Perhaps the only exception to that idea of topicality of comedy, was 911. It took a long time before anyone dared joke about that.
    Paul Krassner: Yeah. In fact, Larry King was asking comedian Bill Maher “When can you do joke about 911?” It’s too soon because the whole country was wounded. But now I did a show up a week ago, and I asked, “Is it too soon to do anything about Michael Jackson?” and the whole audience said, “No, it’s not too soon.” So I think we were all getting jaded.
    Jeff Schechtman: You’ve started The Realist back in 1958 because you said at the time that there were no other publications that really engaged in adult humor. Talk about what was going on back then. Why you thought that was important.
    Paul Krassner: Yeah, I started at the end of the ’50s, which was known as the silent generation. I think the counterculture exploded out of the blandness and repression of the Eisenhower-Nixon years. Just as now, there seems to be an evolutionary jump in consciousness happening, exploding out of the repression and blandness of the Bush-Cheney years. It’s a different timing now. I mean, there are comedians who say, “Oh, I missed George Bush,” but I was happy to sacrifice him.
    Jeff Schechtman: Well, but yet, even without Bush there, there’s still a lot to make fun of.
    Paul Krassner: Oh sure. Yeah. People say, “Well, Obama is so nice you can’t make fun of him,” but there are issues. There are other areas that there’s always… As long as there’s controversy, as long as there are contradictions between what people say and what they do, it’s natural to be made fun of. But what happens is a lot of the comedians want to get there six minutes on the David Letterman show. Jay Leno when he was on and now Conan O’Brien, they make fun of personalities rather than issues.
    Jeff Schechtman: Talk about the humor of Lenny Bruce. He was your mentor in terms of the standup comedy you did and what that comedy was about. Because it really was about issues and irony.
    Paul Krassner: Oh yeah. That’s the thing that people associate Lenny with rough language when actually he was the first comedian I know to make fun of nuclear testing, to poke fun at the irrationality of the drug laws, what I call the war on some people who use some drugs. He talked about the low teachers’ salaries. They were really issues that people now don’t associate with him, but he broke through the traditional kind of Borscht Belt comedians who joked about … Did mother-in-law jokes. Who did Asian driver jokes.
    Jeff Schechtman: Catholic Church.
    Paul Krassner: Yes, yes. Then he got deeper into it and would do lines like, “People are leaving the church and going back to God.” And so he represented that cultural shift that was going on where people were trying to get away from Western religions of control and in the spiritual path and turned to eastern disciplines. Interestingly enough, Barack Obama is the first president who actually in his inauguration speech acknowledged the existence of non-believers.
    Jeff Schechtman: Talk a little bit about when the comedy of that period and the irony of that period in the late fifties, into the mid-sixties, into ’66, ’67, started to give way to an anger that was very different than the comedy that preceded it.
    Paul Krassner: There was a time when, I think it started in England, where it was called the generation of angry young men. I think it was imitation of style. So for example, if people wanted to get on David Letterman’s show, they tried to mimic him, and what they did was kind of adopt his style of cynicism. That was their role model. The same thing with Conan O’Brien and David Letterman don’t like political stuff that much. So the comedians would do jokes about their first date or if they got married then about the problems and being married. But, it was relatively superficial, and it wasn’t really getting at the heart of things. And they were hostile.
    Paul Krassner: I know that a woman came up to me after the end of one of my shows and she said, “Thank you. I was so afraid to come.” I said, “Afraid, why?” She said, “Well, I’ve been to a comedy show before and they’d made me cry.” She was sitting in the front row and they used her as a target and I said, “No, no, no, I just want to make you laugh. That’s all.” So it became a style. Like any industry, people would simply imitate the successes, and the successes were based on the lowest common denominator.
    Jeff Schechtman: When did the anger set in though in that period in the ’60s? When did the comedy give way to anger?
    Paul Krassner: That’s a hard question. I think the Vietnam War had something to do with the anger, because there was frustration. There was a draft at the time and there were people wearing lapel buttons that said, “Not with my body, you don’t.” Because of the draft, people could relate to it. It wasn’t an abstract thing. Everybody knew somebody who was going to be drafted or affected their families and their friends and their coworkers.
    Paul Krassner: I think the war had a lot to do with it because more and more people realized that it was a war that was unjustified and that was really an invasion of another country. They used the Communist Domino Theory as a rationale. Just like the war in Iraq, it was based on lies. It was based on euphemisms. Then they would refer to concentration camps as strategic hamlets, and now they refer to torture as enhanced interrogation techniques. It’s all just continuing to pull new wool over new eyes.
    Jeff Schechtman: You have referred to yourself as a kind of investigative satirist. Talk about that and the investigative part of it, the work that you’ve done with The Realist and other publications and how you’ve turned that investigative ability to satire and to humor.
    Paul Krassner: Yeah, as a journalist and as a satirist, I could see relationships between the two. I mean, sometimes you just report the news and people laugh because they haven’t read that yet, and they think you’re making up something brilliant. Such as there are actually spray-on condoms now. But, if you tell people that and they don’t know about it, they think, “Wow, what an interesting concept. That’s very funny.”
    Paul Krassner: In my case, I do a lot of research out of which to draw up material that calls to be targeted as satire. The more information I can get the wider my awareness of the hypocrisy or the contradictions in it that can be made fun of. So, it’s dealing with the information, not just the stereotypes of Bob Dole was the old guy. So, if you wanted to have old guy jokes, Bob Dole was the image you used, but they didn’t talk about his policy so much. Just their ageist jokes.
    Jeff Schechtman: Some of the most controversial investigative stuff that you’ve done had to do with the Kennedy assassination. Going back to the exposé about Mae Brussell in 1972. Talk a little about that, Paul.
    Paul Krassner: Yeah. It was a turning point in American history when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I published articles by May Brussell, who was the queen of conspiracy research. This was before computers, and so she had 40 filing cabinets filled with folders of the various categories. When the Watergate break-in occurred in June of 1972, it brought together the eight years of research she had done. Then she saw connection. The same names popping up. The modus operandi. She made those connections in terms of the secret government.
    Paul Krassner: For me, I could get humor out of it, such as… Well, the example that comes to mind is that there were bullet holes in his throat, theoretically from The Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald was, but also from the grassy knoll where the three conspirators, who were dressed as tramps, were. I was able to make a joke about that, that Kennedy had been a satanic figure and it was like in The Exorcist. His head turned around 180 degrees at the precise moment that the shooting was taking place, which is why it looked like the bullet came from The Book Depository. I had to research that stuff about autopsies and conspiracy theories before I could come to that for political conclusion.
    Speaker 3: Talk about the impact that Kennedy’s assassination had on you at the time.
    Paul Krassner: Well, he was the first president that I voted for, and when it happened you knew that it was done for a purpose. It was like a military coup in a sense. Mort Sahl, for example, left the comedy world temporarily and went down to New Orleans to assist in the DA Jim Garrison’s investigation of the assassination. It’s interesting that a lot of the comedians that I’ve known and associated with, have been conspiracy theorists, because for comedy you have to kind of step outside of the regular boundaries to see what can be humorous about it. Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Orson Bean, Barry Crimmins, Richard Belzer, who even wrote a book about conspiracy theories. It’s interesting to me that there should be that connection, but it makes sense because for conspiracy theories, you also have to kind of think out of that proverbial box.
    Jeff Schechtman: Talk About Lenny Bruce and how he dealt with the Kennedy assassination.
    Paul Krassner: When Kennedy died, Lenny made a remark that when Jackie Kennedy got onto the back of the car, Lenny said, “Oh, she was hauling ass.” Actually though, she was trying to retrieve a piece of Kennedy’s brain that flew out onto the back of the car. He talked about, he took a biological approach to politics. We’d talk about how the horniness of a womanizer like Kennedy, and how he would tell the secret service agents, “Okay, stop there. I want to go have a tryst in the woods with Marilyn or something.” He just took the humanness and the foibles of these political icons and made fun of them in a way that people who were not in power could understand and could see that, as Henry Kissinger once said, that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.
    Jeff Schechtman: When Lenny Bruce died in ’66 talk about your sense of that at the time.
    Paul Krassner: On one level, I thought it was very sad because as a satirist, he had so much more to offer and he was so uncompromising in his work. As a personal friend it was a great loss too. My current obsession is working on a novel about a contemporary type Lenny, which stemmed from 1966 after he died. I kept thinking: “What would Lenny be saying now? What would be his take on this?” And, there has come a certain point now where I thought that I was actually channeling Lenny, until one day he said to me, “Come on, you don’t believe in that crap.” So I stopped channeling him.
    Jeff Schechtman: Talk about how your audiences, and you still do stand up from time to time, how have your audiences changed? Who comes today? What do you see today?
    Paul Krassner: The most gratifying thing is that old fans of my work come with their offspring or offspring bring their parents. It shatters the myth of the generation gap. I did a show last week, and people came up and said it’s different from the humor they see on TV, except for people like, I guess the big three is, John Stewart, Steven Colbert and Bill Maher. They appreciate it. There’s a hunger for it because these are really depressing times and repressing times. The more repression there is the more need there is for irreverence towards those in authority who are responsible for that repression.
    Jeff Schechtman: Do you think there’s anything that you could call a counter culture out there today?
    Paul Krassner: Sure. There’s always been a counter culture. I mean, in recent decades it went from the Bohemians to the Beats, to the Hippies, to the Yippies, to the Punks, to Hip-Hop. There’s always a counter culture. It just has taken different forms. I think now it’s become much, much more of a multiethnic, multiracial kind of process, especially with the help of the Internet.
    Paul Krassner: One of the reasons I stopped The Realist was because I wanted to eventually put myself out of business in the sense that I acted as the canary in the coal mine of taking chances and living out what the First Amendment is. It’s just a law. I mean, free speech existed before the First Amendment, and people mistake it now. If there’s censorship, they say, “Oh, that’s a violation of the First Amendment,” which is not accurate because the First Amendment only applies to when the government is involved in suppressing speech.
    Paul Krassner: I think what used to be called a counter culture now has become mainstream culture in terms of anybody can do what I was doing on the Internet in the sense that my goal was to communicate without compromise. The web provides that forum. Anybody can communicate without compromise. There’s a law of supply and demand in terms of the audience for their communication. There’s a lot of competition for it. I think that all of the things that the ’60s counter culture, the seeds that they planted are still blossoming, whether it’s organic food or environmental concern. They were a threat to the economy in terms of they didn’t buy insurance policies. They lived in communes and took care of each other. They would pool their money and have one car for several people. They would make their own clothes. They would make candles and use them instead of light bulbs. So, it was a threat to the economy, and the think tanks certainly found that out.
    Jeff Schechtman: It’s interesting. You look back at the ‘60s and your founding of the Yippies and the anti-Vietnam protests and everything else, that it all involved a certain degree of organization and a certain organizational skill that something like the Internet and Twitter make so much easier today.
    Paul Krassner: Oh yeah. It’s changed the nature of… The Internet has changed the nature of protest itself. We used to have to get our hands messy with mimeograph ink, getting leaflets ready, which would then be mailed to people or delivered at rallies. Now, MoveOn.org organized demonstrations so much easier. It was quicker. It was immediate. It was a wider audience that was reached. It was just almost simultaneous that that kind of organizing could be done, and it didn’t cost the money for stamps. It’s a whole different process now that’s going on, and it applies to other areas too. Medicine. People can communicate with people who have had the same medical symptoms with others and not just depend on doctors. There is a process of some kind of citizens’ revolt that’s going on, and it’s a very subversive phenomenon. It’s being done out in the open. I like that combination.
    Jeff Schechtman: Is it too diffuse? Is it ever going to reach any kind of critical mass as the ’60s protests did around Vietnam and civil rights?
    Paul Krassner: Well, those civil rights and the Vietnam war and a few other things, decriminalization of marijuana and abortion rights, these were some of the main issues during the ‘60s. Now there are, I counted at least 25 different causes that are going on, and some of them… in fact, the slogan, the songs of the ’60s was We Shall Overcome. Now it’s become, in effect, We Shall Overlap because there are so many causes. Save the whales, save the rain forests, wages for housewives. There are so many causes, and most of them are justified. Some of them are trivial, but everybody has their own agenda and perceived reality through that agenda.
    Jeff Schechtman: Does that make it more difficult for any of those agendas to really be achieved and for there to be, as I said, critical mass around any of them today?
    Paul Krassner: I think so. That’s the ones that I think have to do with numbers. When I needed surgery about 20 years ago, there were 37 million, including myself, who did not have health insurance. Now there are 47 million. That’s why healthcare and the economy, jobs, are the two big issues because that’s what most people are suffering from.
    Jeff Schechtman: How about the discussion with respect to drugs today? Certainly that was a big part of the ’60s and not as much a part of our discussion today.
    Paul Krassner: Yeah, I think it’s reached a level of a tipping point in public awareness of the hypocrisy behind the laws. My feeling is that as long as any government can decide which drugs are legal and which are not legal, then anybody in prison on a drug offense is really a political prisoner. So that 1200, 1300 people a day die in this country alone from cigarette smoking, and yet marijuana causes no deaths. The worst that’ll happen is maybe somebody will raid the refrigerator at midnight for the munchies.
    Paul Krassner: There is now more and more talk of making marijuana legal so that it can then be taxed, which would help, especially in California, billions of dollars in taxes that could be raised. I think that it’s kind of doing the right thing for the wrong reason. I think that marijuana should be decriminalized so that people shouldn’t spend time behind bars because they were smoking a weed and not because it’s going to bring more money to the local economy.
    Jeff Schechtman: When you talk to young people today, and we’ve been engaged for the past couple of years, I suppose, and still are in all of these sort of 40th anniversary celebrations. The 40th anniversary a year or so ago of the summer of love, and this year, the 40th anniversary of Woodstock and the 40th anniversary of the Vietnam war, various aspects of the Vietnam War. What are young people today understand about that time?
    Paul Krassner: I think they’re learning from it. The fact that it’s a year with a zero at the end makes a difference. There are at least three books that I know that are coming out about Woodstock. There’s the 40th anniversary of the Manson murders. People don’t understand that. They think, “Oh, he was a Hippie,” when he was never a Hippie. He spent most of his life in prison, and his family were thieves and murderers and rapists.
    Paul Krassner: I think that a byproduct of these anniversary celebrations is bringing young people up to date about what really happened at that time, and not the quick imagery of… If they think of the account of the hippies in the ’60s, all they think of is two main images. A party where people are passing a joint around or police throwing a bunch of hippies into a wagon that’s going to take them up to the local jail. It was much deeper than that.
    Paul Krassner: It was true. It was sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Underneath that was this spiritual revolution where people really wanted to de-program themselves from the mainstream culture, which they considered had inhumane attributes. Then reprogram themselves in a more humane philosophy and then live up to that philosophy, not just have it as an abstract belief. I think that more people are open now to change with factors such as the environment, such as the recession, is sort of forcing them into alternative ways of thinking and being.
    Jeff Schechtman: Just makes it tougher when so many escape into the celebrity entertainment culture of the day.
    Paul Krassner: Oh yeah, there are people… I just saw the movie Bruno, where this guy wants to be famous. It’s not that he is talented, he just wants to be famous. And there is so much of that now. It’s kind of heartbreaking to see how many thousands and thousands of people line up in order to audition for American idol. Not that they have talent, but they want fame.
    Jeff Schechtman: Was there that desire for fame in the ’60s do you think?
    Paul Krassner: I guess there’s always been. People are called born leaders in whatever their fields are, entertainments or politics. So I think that that’s just the human condition is to want to be admired and recognized and acknowledged by others, but it depends because fame is a tool. If you want to reach more people then fame helps. Artists, whether writers or photographers or movie makers or painters or sculptors, poets, whatever they are, a lot of them are willing to just communicate with their hard drives. Others really want to be discovered by more and more. They have to try to catch…
    Paul Krassner: I’m glad that whatever public recognition I have is of my name rather than my appearance so that I can still be an observer rather than the observed. I can go out in public. I don’t have to do what Elvis Presley did, which was go to the dentist at midnight where there would be nobody in the waiting room. It could be a terrible burden, an addiction as it was in Michael Jackson’s case.
    Jeff Schechtman: What are you doing online now? Tell us, are you blogging? What are you doing?
    Paul Krassner: I blog occasionally for Huffington Post and Counterpoint and Reality Sandwich. I’ll use my computer for three purposes. As a word processor. It has destroyed the concept of a first draft because now you edit as you go along. It’s also changed the nature of… There used to be books, collections and thousands of great letter writers and now what is it going to be in the future? The great Twitters of our time. A Collection Of A 140 Characters By 140 Characters. It used to be people would flourish words, and now they’ll just say, “That’s cool. We’ll give you an email instead of a long analysis.
    Paul Krassner: It leads to a certain carelessness. Whereas people would proofread their stuff previously, now there’s a kind of carelessness. Oh, that’s good enough to send. You can see the typos are blatant in email. I use it for word processing, processing, email and research. I’m more or less of a Luddite. I never even learned how to drive a car, but I’m becoming almost as much in awe of technology as I am in awe of nature.
    Jeff Schechtman: Paul Krassner, thank you so much for spending time with us today.
    Paul Krassner: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you, Jeff.
    Jeff Schechtman: Thank you.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

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