Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I'll Mature When I'm Dead

The new Dave Barry book, I'll Mature When I'm Dead, was on a shelf at the library, so I picked it up. And I tell you, I laughed three times throughout the whole book, which is an astonishingly low number for me. Barry is old and his jokes aren't funny anymore, which is a disappointment.

How old he is seems to be something he's showing off, with a standard rant about the narcissism of Twitter and Facebook and how he doesn't know how to use "newfangled" gadgets:
"I turn on the programmable coffeemaker, which I hope that someday, perhaps by attending community college, I will learn to program. Then I take a breakfast 'sausage' made of processed tofu from the freezer and pop it into the microwave oven, which in seconds converts it from a frozen, unappetizing gray cylinder into a piping hot unappetizing gray cylinder."
Is there anything more dull than hearing about how an old person can't work technology and has to eat tasteless food? I don't think so...unless it's hearing about an old person's medical procedures. That's right, there's an essay in this collection about Barry's colonoscopy. No kidding.

The only part I laughed at is the Twilight parody, and if you've seen my sidebar with the various bits of Twilight commentary, you can tell that I'm easily amused by any and all attempts to make fun of that book and its sequels. Still, despite the lame title (Fangs of Endearment), I found in the first-person narrative of this parody a glimmer of the humor that Barry used to be able to knock off, seemingly without effort:
"Phil swooped me into his arms using the super vampire strength that he has in addition to his super vampire speed and his ability to read minds, perform complex mathematical calculations in his head, assemble a working nuclear submarine entirely from clock parts, and recite all the lyrics to Guys and Dolls backward."

The part that made me laugh out loud was when the werewolf came in:
"He looked at me with his dark lanky eyes, and for a moment I saw in his expression the thoughtful and caring young man with whom I had shared so many emotional moments in the previous book without ever actually doing it. Suddenly his expression changed to one of dark foreboding. 'If you go out in the woods today,' he whispered hoarsely, 'you better not go alone.'"

That passage, I thought, went a ways towards redeeming the time I spent on the boring rest of the book. The Teddy Bear's Picnic! That's a touch of the old Barry magic.

What's your favorite Dave Barry piece? Does anyone like anything in this new book, besides the Twilight parody?

19 comments:

FreshHell said...

You know what? That's EXACTLY what I thought when I read the review of that book in the paper Sunday. Barry hasn't been funny since he divorced his first wife, I think. Snore.

Harriet said...

The only Dave Barry book I've read recently is Science Fair, which AJ got for his birthday. We read part of it out loud on a long car trip and all three of us enjoyed it.

bermudaonion said...

I used to love Dave Barry's humor, so I'm disappointed to see this isn't funny.

lemming said...

Barry had a piece about children's songs that helped keep me sane for a time, as did his observations in The Sound of Music. Still, I think his best piece is the one he wrote right after 9/11

Betty (Beth) said...

I used to read his collumns and books all the time before he retired. Sad to hear this newest piece isn't the best, but that Twilight parody definitely sounds like the Barry I remember.

Joe said...

Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs is absolutely fantastic... it's the expanded version of a couple of columns he wrote while trying to establish what the worst all-time song ever was.

This is the book that taught me reading comedy on the Metro and laughing out loud will convince enough people that you're crazy that you're likely to get a seat to yourself for an extra station or two.

It is also the book that taught me what a "killing frost" was, which is why I always laugh at the song "WildFire."

readersguide said...

Okay, now I sort of want to read the twilight parody. "Dark lanky eyes" is just about perfect, and the rest of that sentence is, too. Perfectly captures the deadly awfulness of those books. Which, you will note, I have read. But so has he, apparently.

Jenners said...

I haven't read a ton of Dave Barry's stuff but I did recently read his "Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need" and found it funny ... but that was written ages ago. I imagine at the tail end of a long career, he might be a little burnt out.

Teresa said...

I agree with Joe--the Book of Bad Songs is side-splittingly hilarious. But I stopped reading his column years ago. It's just gone stale. And a whole book of "I'm an old fart" humor? No thank you. Barry can (or once could) be funnier than that.

Joe said...

OK, so here's a thread-jacking question... who is doing old fart humor well? P.J. O'Rourke seems to do pretty well with it on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. I think Craig Ferguson does a great job of it on his show and standup. But what works in standup comedy might not work on the page...

Mrs. Vincent said...

I haven't really read Dave Barry, but I have to say book duds are so not cool. It's sad when any book looks or sounds great but then turns out not to be good. We've had 2 or 3 books in my book club that turn out to be duds for most of us. It's sad really.

Jeanne said...

Now when I'm wishing I could read some GOOD Dave Barry, I know where to look! Thanks!

Joe, I can't think of a single old fart book I like. Even MFK Fisher's book about getting older, Sister Age, isn't half as interesting as any of her other books. I thought of Mencken, because he has that curmudgeonly air even when younger, but discounting his epitaph, he didn't write about being old.

ARE there any?

confessionsofdramaturg said...

I have never read any Dave Barry before....but I think I might now just to find out for myself....

PAJ said...

The funniest Dave Barry piece I ever read was about his trip to the Blue Grotto. (It's probably in the "Travel Guide" book mentioned by another commenter.) I laughed aloud the first time I read the piece (more than 20 years ago) and can still break into giggles when I think of it.
Old fart writing is not funny.
On another topic (sort of), Betty White's recent appearance on SNL could have been SO much funnier if the writers hadn't decided the only humor the veteran actress could do is dirty old lady laughs.

Potansiyel said...
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Potansiyel said...
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Anonymous said...

I don't think the one getting old is Dave Barry. I think that it's you. I'm not going to say how old I am for fear that it will influence the credulity with which you read this comment. However, I'm pretty sure that I am younger than you, and I find Barry's humor to be as funny as ever. I think it is your tastes, and not his writing that have changed your opinions.I was laughing about every two seconds during this essay. Judge me if you would like, but I don't appreciate you judging Dave Barry when his writing appeals to the younger generation, and not you. If anything, your humor has finally broken with that of the kids now, and you can no longer appreciate Barry's work.

Jeanne said...

Possibly. Humor is subjective.

Rachel Rasmussen said...

Here here. Couldn't agree more. I kind of got burnt out on Dave Barry by over reading him, but THIS book was hilarious. The episode of 24 was genius. The insights on women dead-on. And the colonoscopy essay has probably saved lives. Go anonymous.