by Leah Sottile

Literary genius? No. Master of the Pen? Depends on who you ask. While he may not have been his English teacher's dream pupil, Dave Barry is a damn good writer -- and isn't that what the Get Lit! festival is all about? It's a party for great writers that everyone enjoys, and how could the Get Lit! planners host a party for writers without the literary life of the party? Well, they just couldn't.

Whether he's playing a skeptical everyman, Captain Obvious or a harsh social critic, Barry has written his column into more than 500 newspapers around the globe. With no formal training, no stand-up comedy experience or even an extensive journalism background, Barry made his name from being that relatable funny guy, the one with a snarky comment for everything. Miraculously, it worked.

Perhaps it all started when he was voted "Class Clown" at Pleasantville High School in Armonk, New York -- a title he says he is proud of to this day. Barry went on to Haverford College to become an English major -- a degree that he says gave him "no useful skills." Somehow he landed a job at The Miami Herald in 1983, and he's been there ever since.

As a resident columnist for The Herald, Barry has mastered the art of writing about everything from politics, policies and potty humor. He even won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for his hilarious commentaries -- but he says he only received the award because he bribed the judges.

In fact, he's become so known for his trademark smart-aleck style that a doting fan has taken the liberty of creating a hilariously accurate "Dave Barry Column Generator," a kind of Mad Libs for adults. Just type in the name of a town, something bad about that town, a plural noun, an insult and the name of a friend, and you've got your very own personalized Dave Barry column. (Check it out at

So maybe some readers think that he's getting a little predictable, but Barry says that won't stop him from continuing. He says that he keeps one thing in mind when he starts to run out of ideas:

"I have no other source of income," he says bluntly. "I plan to write until people get sick of them. No, wait, a lot of people have already told me my columns make them sick. So I guess I plan to write them until I get sick of them."

Perhaps Barry's secret is to spout everyone's opinion but his own -- and to portray those opinions in the most asinine way possible. Or it could be that he just makes the most obvious observations hilarious by acting like they are miraculous revelations.

For example, what does he think is John Kerry's best strategy to win the presidential race?

"I think Kerry's best strategy for winning would be to get more electoral votes than Bush," he says. "But please don't tell them that, as it could harm my chances."

When he's not writing his column, Barry is playing with his band, the Rock Bottom Remainders (a band he plays in with Stephen King and other notable authors), running his own campaign for president (, stopping in cities around the country like Spokane to speak about writing and joking around with his kids -- who he says think he's hilarious.

"I think they think I'm terrific," he says. "Those paper bags they wear over their heads are just their little joke."

Publication date: 04/08/04

Art, Nature and the Voice of the River @ People's Park

Sun., June 13, 11 a.m.
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About The Author

Leah Sottile

Leah Sottile is a Spokane-based freelance writer who formerly served as music editor, culture editor and a staff writer at the Inlander. She has written about everything from nuns and Elvis impersonators, to jailhouse murders and mental health...