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Humorist Dave Barry On His Latest Book 'You Can Date Boys When You're 40'

Updated at 4:00 p.m.

Humorist Dave Barry has been making people laugh for decades. For 20 years, Sunday papers across the country carried his Pulitzer-Prize-winning humor column, syndicated from the Miami Herald.  He’s also the author of a long list of very funny best-selling books.

His latest book is a collection of humorous essays called “You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About. He is in St. Louis on a book tour and joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh in studio to talk about the book.

Despite the parenting-oriented title, “You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty” is not all about parenting, said Barry.

“The title essay of the book is about my daughter growing up. There are a lot of other essays in it,” Barry said. “I had a number of other titles I proposed, including “Dave Barry’s Vague General Book of Humor Topics.”

Writing about his family is nothing new. In the past he wrote about his 33-year-old son Rob, and now Barry writes about being the parent of 14-year-old Sophie.  They’re used to the experience, and don’t mind.

“If Sophie doesn’t want me to write about her, she can pay for her own college education,” Barry said. “Writing is what I do.”

Some of the other essays in the book include commentary about a trip his family took to Israel, Barry’s reaction to the book “Fifty Shades of Grey” and an expository on death: “It starts at 50 with a letter from the AARP, which is the sound you make when you die.”

Barry has also written more seriously about death.  A fan emailed in prior to the show with praise for his column “A Million Words,” written after his father’s death.

“’A Million Words’ is a beautiful essay on saying goodbye and letting go, and I wanted to thank him for it,” wrote Vivian. The full essay can be found on Dave Barry’s website.

In addition to talking about “You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty,” the conversation also touched on the children’s book series “Peter and the Starcatchers,” which Barry co-wrote with Ridley Pearson. Their books inspired the Tony-winning play “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

Other topics discussed included the changing role of humor writing today, appropriate topics for humor, and the band of authors Rock Bottom Remainders. Here are a few highlights:

On whether he misses writing a regular newspaper column

“If something happens in the news now, before I could get a column out in the paper there would be one thousand tweets about it,” Barry said. “There are some really very talented people who do nothing pretty much all day but think of jokes for Twitter. Jon Stewart would have talked about it. All the night time hosts would have had jokes about it, Letterman and all those folks, written by really good gag writers. And so by the next day it would be picked over pretty thoroughly. So I tend to go towards more essays and random humor [now].”

On setting limits to comedic topics

“I’ve never written any humor about the Holocaust. I never would write about child abuse or rape, or anything like that. There are things that you can kind of write around. Drug abuse is not funny but, government policies towards drugs and the war on drugs can be funny….there are humorists who do humor on all of those things. I’m just not one of them. I think because I came from a newspaper background where there really were pretty clear limits.”

On finding humor in tough situations

“Things that make people nervous and tense, those things tend to become jokes at some point, which I think is one way people deal with it,” Barry said. It becomes part of the conversation, arising out of people’s concern in order to deal with the unknown.

Dave Barry talks about the public response to the missing Malaysian plane as an example of finding humor in difficult situations.

Related Event

Maryville Talks Books and Left Bank Books Present Dave Barry
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
7:00 p.m.
Maryville University Auditorium, 650 Maryville University Dr.
Maryville University Website

St. Louis on the Air provides discussion about issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh.

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Don Marsh served as host of St. Louis Public Radio’s “St. Louis on the Air" from 2005 to 2019, bringing discussions of significant topics to listeners' ears at noon Monday through Friday. Don has been an active journalist for 58 years in print, radio and television. He has won 12 Regional Emmy Awards for writing, reporting, and producing. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame in 2013, and named “Media Person of the Year” by the St. Louis Press Club in 2015. He has published three books: his most recent, “Coming of Age, Liver Spots and All: A Humorous Look at the Wonders of Getting Old,” “Flash Frames: Journey of a Journeyman Journalist” and “How to be Rude (Politely).” He holds an honorary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
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