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Post Magazine: The Year in Review

Dave Barry with Reflections on 2003

Dave Barry
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, December 29, 2003; 1:00 PM

As Dave Barry wrote in Sunday's Washington Post Magazine, 2003 was the 'Year of the Troubling Question' -- not to mention the year of the ubiquitous "reality" TV show and the year of the interminable California recall.

Barry was online Monday, Dec. 29 at 1 p.m. ET to field questions and comments about 2003 or any other year you might like to chat about.

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Barry is a syndicated humor columnist with the Miami Herald. His column appears each Sunday in The Washington Post Magazine.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Enid, Oklahoma: Dave, how many hours a year do you practice with the Rock Bottom Remainders?

Dave Barry: If by "practice," you mean "try to learn the songs BEFORE we attempt them in front of a live audience," I would have to say the answer is: not very much. The Remainders prefer to perform for the audience first, and see which songs we really don't know. Then, afterward, we go, "Man, we should practice some of those songs!" But by then there's really no point.


Miami, Fla.: What is your favorite rock group featuring a singer with dreadlocks?

Dave Barry: The Lettermen. They didn't wear their dreads on their heads, but, trust me, they had them.


Laurel, Md.: Dave, please explain this because Gene won't...

What did you think was so clever about the Garfield comic the Tuesday before Halloween where his stomach was growling? I've been racking my brain for two months over this and still don't have a clue.

Dave Barry: I have to yield to Gene on this. He's a HUGE Garfield fan; his house is basically a shrine to Garfield, with Garfield merchandise everywhere. He even wears Garfield pajamas. And not just when he sleeps. Anyway, Gene believes that particular Garfield is maybe the best one ever, because of the incredible subtlety of the joke. It took him nearly 10 minutes to explain it to me, and there's just no way I can do it justice. Just keep nagging him, and eventually he'll let you in on it. Trust me: It's worth the effort.


Somewhere, USA: Contemplative State: Were you the class clown in school? Are you still?

Any advice for the Recovering Class Clown Support Group here at the Monastery?

Dave Barry: I was actually elected male Class Clown of the Pleasantville (New York) Class of 1965. I believe the female class clown was Toni Flood. I don't know what happened to Toni. I am currently in real estate.


Somewhere, USA: Cav Eat, Emptor: Hey Dave, I have an idea for a Reality TV show you could host: How about you give one gift from your annual gift guide to each contestant? The person who wins gets a record contract to be in a band you pick the name of...

Dave Barry: I don't see how that would be any stupider than "The Simple Life."


Somewhere, USA: Absolutely Nothing to Do with Gene Weingarten: I love your columns. Have you ever thought about making your life into a TV series?

Dave Barry: That has already been done. It was called "Baywatch."


Newcastle U.K: Hi Dave. Greetings from your UK appreciation society, proving that genius can transcend time zones, and as we are about 30 years behind you, that takes some doing. My question is: In one of your articles you asked if New York could save itself, well David Blaine was over here a couple of months ago, providing us with some useful egg throwing target practise while in his glass cage. So, can David Blaine save himself? Cheers. 'Geordie'from Newcastle, England.

Dave Barry: On behalf of the American people, I have been authorized to offer you $12.7 billion if you will keep David Blaine over there.


Homestead, Fla.: Thanks for yet another side-splitting Year in Review. Have a wonderful holiday and best wishes for the New Year!

Dave Barry: Thank you, and right back atcha.


washingtonpost.com: Stop answering, you're too early!;

Dave Barry: OK, then.


Dave Barry: There's nothing as tense as these pre-chat moments.


Dave Barry: You can cut the tension here with a knife as we wait for the chat to officially begin.


Washington, D.C.: Washington Post Newsroom, I must know:

What was Achenbach like as a youngster? How about Weingarten?

Dave Barry: Joel was this brilliant guy from Princeton who had really bad hair and looked like he was maybe 15. Actually, none of that has changed. He wrote some amazing stories for the Herald, including one in which he? OK, I don't know how to put this? He engaged in an act of self-gratification and wrote about it hilariously.

Gene had even worse hair than Joel, and was as insane as he is now, but he was an EDITOR. This meant that the person who decided whether something I had written was too tasteless to be published was... GENE! The same guy who had Joel gratify himself!

It was a wonderful time to be in journalism.


Dave Barry: The Washington Post has informed me that I am live. I want to thank the Post for that, and all of you for joining this chat.


Falls Church, Va.: Dave, do you ever plan on putting away the keyboard and perhaps joining former Herald reporter Steve Doig as a great college professor?

Dave Barry: I don't know if I could handle working... what... TWO HOURS A WEEK, sometimes.


Washington, D.C.: Should an uneducated voter still go to the polls and cast a vote?

Dave Barry: Of course! Otherwise the election totals would be like, 117-112.


Kent, Ohio: Hey Dave -- from a humor perspective, who would you like to see win the Democratic presidential nomination?

Dave Barry: Sharpton is genuinely funny. But my man Dennis K. is also VERY strong.


Northern California: How many letters do you get on an average week? Do you read them all yourself? If not, do you have some system (er, some assistant?) for making sure that the letters you would want to see get to you?

What happened after the SECOND time you revealed the Telemarker's Asscociation Phone Number?

Dave Barry: I get a LOT of mail, which is opened by my Research Department, Judi Smith, who checks them for pictures of naked men, which she puts on the office wall. After that I am not sure what happens to it.


Herndon, Va.: You ruined Star Wars Episode I for me, you idiot. Thanks a lot.

Dave Barry: It was my pleasure! Although, to be fair, the credit really belongs to Mr. Lucas.


Lanham, Md.: I am visiting the Washington area for the holidays,from the Caribbean. At present I have a group of poems which have been critiqued. Can you tell me the best way to get my work out since I have found that there are not many publishers of poetry in the area.


Dave Barry: You would want to send those to Mr. Gene Weingarten, at the Washington Post. When he is not re-reading old Garfields, he is looking to help poets get published.


Alexandria, Va.: If Fantasy Island were on TV today, would they call it Reality Island just because they can?

Dave Barry: I believe they would.


Washington, D.C.: I was just informed that the top-selling album of 2003 was by rapper 50 Cent. Dave, prove your bona fides with the youth of America by saying something funny about 50 Cent in 50 words or less.

Dave Barry: Personally, I cannot make "heads" or "tails" of 50 Cent.

Har! Get it, young people??


Washington, D.C.: Are you the type of person that likes it when people come up to you and ask you for an autograph?

I ask because right after thanksgiving 2002, I saw you at the smithsonion with this really hairy guy and families. I wanted to get your autograph (I even had one of your books in my back pack). However, I then thought that you might want your privacy.

I guess I could have asked, and offered you money. That would have made the trip tax deductable.

Dave Barry: Actually, I would have been happy to autograph the book, in exchange for instructions on how to escape from the Smithsonian.


Chicago, Ill.: There's one story that won't go away, no matter how much we wish it would, even after all these years: You know it, it's New Coke. WHAT were they thinking? Reactions? Reflections? Next steps? Resources? Would be interested in hearing you address the white elephant in the room...

Dave Barry: Not only that, but NONE of the so-called "presidential candidates" have dared to address this issue.


Reston, Va.: I seem to recall you used to include mentions of famous deaths in your year-in-review pieces. I don't recall seeing any this year, though. Have you stopped doing that, or am I a complete and utter dope who should get out of the editing profession?

Dave Barry: Nope, you're right: I cut the deaths out because (a) the Year in Review always gets cut by the papers that run it, so I was looking for a way to make it shorters, and (b) a WHOLE lot of famous people died in 2003.


Herndon, Va.: Care to comment on Michael Jackson's appearance on 60 Minutes last night ?

Dave Barry: I honestly think he is now a totally computer-generated entity, like Shrek.


Washington, D.C.: Any words of encouragement for a guy that could be down, named Mr. Spurrier here in DC?

Dave Barry: Steve will land on his feet, somewhere. Maybe in his garage.


Arlington, Va.: How did you get suckered into, I mean convinced to do a Washington Post chat?

Dave Barry: They promised they would return the picture of me and the Shetland pony. WHICH IS NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE.


Albany, N.Y.: Dave,

A few years ago you wrote an article about a small town in a cold remote part of America that gave you an award (a fish or something). You had previously made fun of the locale, and noted it being a "really bad place" (or something like that). Would you please consider visiting Albany and making fun of it we are much worse than them and have many unusual awards to present including a capsized Russian Freighter.

Dave Barry: That was Grand Forks, North Dakota, and they named a sewage-lifting station after me. It's No. 16. Has my name on it in FOOT-HIGH LETTERS.

(I'm still not clear on the concept of a "sewage-lifting station". Me, I would leave the sewage down there.)

Anyway... About Albany. It sounds appealing, the way you describe it, but the thing is, I already HAVE a capsized Russian freighter.


Washington, D.C.: Speaking of Star Wars, how about this? With the phenomenal, stupendous, earth shattering, knee-buckling success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, coupled with the utter failure of the Matrix trilogy, by the time Star Wars Episode 3: Skywalker Has Sex, Has a Kid, and Goes Bad (oh, sorry, did I spoil it for you, Herndon, Va?) comes out, I think we'll have lost any interest in the Star Wars duo-trilogy. Whaddayathink?

Dave Barry: I gotta say, I became exhausted just reading the PLOT SUMMARY of the third LOTR movie.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Shrek? I would have said Gollum.

washingtonpost.com : Precious...

Dave Barry: Good point.


Alexandria, Va.: In answer to one or your troubling questions, I admit I watch a lot of reality TV. I think the reason is that it makes me feel good to feel superior to all those stupid people, and there's a bit of a thrill wondering, what if I'm that stupid myself?

Dave Barry: You have to wonder.


Washington, D.C. (15th and L): Hey, Dave. Weingarten here. Listen, I was just wondering if you might explain to people precisely what you IM'd me less than five seconds after my chat ended last week, and explain why it was funny. I am asking because I haven't figured out how to do it myself and not be fired, so I figured you could give it a shot since Liz does not, technically, employ you. Thanks!

Dave Barry: Gene is referring here to the fact that, at the end of his chat last Tuesday, he was describing some symptoms, and one of them was "sores," which Gene meant to describe as "sores that are oozing pus," except that, as a journalist trained to use words economically, he made "oozing with pus" into the adjective "pussy," which looked PRETTY DARNED FUNNY modifying "sores," in the sense that EVERYBODY read it obscenely the first time. So, definitely, Gene, you should be fired.


Toulen, VI: Dave,

It is a calumny against Italian-Americans that if you tie their hands, they can no longer speak. However, is it true what I heard -- that if your ALL CAPS key is disabled, you cannot write a humor column?



Montreal, Canada: Hi Dave,

If you had to be a character from "the Lord of the Rings", who would that be and why would you identify so much to him/her/it ?

Dave Barry: One of the ones that get killed in the first 10 minutes.


Leesburg, Va: Dave,
I think it would be cool if you play an animated character in a movie, like Ellen Degeneres did on Finding Nemo. Has any director been smart enough to approach you yet?

Dave Barry: NO! I mean, no.


Somewhere, USA: How come telephones never have any letters on the #1 button?

Dave Barry: They're supposed to. You have a defective phone, there. You should find out if anybody else has this problem and file an enormous class-action lawsuit.


Chevy Chase, Md.: Do you consider yourself hip with today's youth (in comparison with other media icons of your age?)

Dave Barry: Not even close. For example, my son is a youth today, and he thinks I am senile. And he may be right!


Irving, Tex.: I am sorry to hear that none of the Democratic Presidential candidates address the new Coke issue, which dated back to the 1980s, as I recall. As a friend of our current President, I know that George W. Bush was on top of the coke issue, and he states that the old coke was fine with him, although I understand he has since quit using even old coke.

Dave Barry: Har.


Just Reston, Va.: Dave--

What is your take on Michael Jackson's current troubles?

Dave Barry: I am certain it is all an innocent misunderstanding that will be quickly cleared up.


Washington, D.C.: All the Garfield questions bring up an equally important problem: how do we know you're really Dave and not Gene?

Dave Barry: Because I am not writing obscene phrases here.


New Haven, Conn.: I read that a man named Dave Barry officiated the famous boxing match between Gene Tunney & Jack Dempsey in 1927. Any relation?

Dave Barry: That was I.


Wilmington, N.C.: Dave --

I think it was last week on either MSNBC or Court TV, I saw some guy working on your presidential campaign with a banner or really running? You do know North Carolina is an important state, something. He was, like, a hard core campaign type person. Are you don't you?


Dave Barry: That was my Campaign Field Coordinator, Ted Habte-Gabr, who is insane. He tried to get on the Today Show -- in that crowd they have outside -- carrying a banner that said "DAVE BARRY FOR PRESIDENT," and they wouldn't let him, because they said it was political, even though Ted insisted it was a joke. So anyway, somehow he managed to get on Court TV talking about this. As I said, he is insane. But a good man to coordinate the field.


Richmond, Va.: It's traditional in the Weingarten chats for the hosts to not wear pants, at least during the chat.

All America wants to know: are you wearing pants right now?

washingtonpost.com: Stop giving my boss Liz a hard time -- and just so you know some of us do wear skirts.

Dave Barry: I'm wearing a skirt.


Washington, D.C.: Dave,
Thanks for the retrospective on this event-filled year. I will save it for my daughter's scrap book -- she was born between the explosion of the suicide turkey and the capture of Hussein and Survivors. I look forward to the time she reads this, around 18 years from now, and I will have to include some cynical commentary of my own.

Dave Barry: Congrats.


Alexandria, Va.: Are you going to publicly admit that you are jealous of Tony Kornheiser's success at blending humor and sports??

Dave Barry: I love Tony Kornheiser, and miss his column.


Alexandria, Va.: My all-time favorite article was "Pass the Bag, I want to Shut Up" about the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing. I've lost the article!! Where, or where, can I find it again??

Dave Barry: You can write to Judi Smith at the Miami Herald (33132), and she'll send it to you. It'll get to you faster if you include a photo of a naked man (not Weingarten).


Jacksonville, Fla.: Dave: How can we ever be sure you are NOT making
things up?

Dave Barry: When I saw I'm not making something up, I'm really not. Really. I'm not making that up.


Cleveland, Ohio: Have you ever visited the Neverland Ranch? If you had a ranch, what would you name it?

Dave Barry: I would name it the "No Cows or Horses or Other Big Pooping Animals Ranch."


Washington, D.C.: Dave, I was born in Wash, DC at the Columbia Hospital for Women. When I tell people this, they usually laugh since I'm a man. Have any whitty quips that I can shoot back at them?

Dave Barry: How about: "So's you're old man!"


Silver Spring, Md.: It seems you have the best job ever. How DOES one get hired to sit about and make humorous observations?

Dave Barry: Well, Weingarten hired me. So just ask him.


Leesburg, Va.: What was the best gizmo/gadget/thingamajig that a cool guy like you wished from Santa this year?

Dave Barry: I got a flat-screen TV which my wife insisted we did not need, because -- get THIS for a reason -- we already had a perfectly good TV. Hahahaha!


Tempe, Ariz.: Dave, Doig here. One of my former students passed on the disappointing news that you wouldn't want to be a professor. I guess I understand, though -- why would you want to double your already grueling giggle writer workweek to TWO hours?

Dave Barry: That was my POINT, Steve.


Washington, D.C.: Is this your chat or not?? Seems like washingtonpost.com is taking a mighty keen interest in your chat. Are you aware they almost never insert themselves even once and they've done so SEVERAL times in your case? Doesn't that really upset you?? Enough to take it up with them after you're through with the likes of us???

Dave Barry: You're RIGHT. I shall have them fired.


New York: Dave - you're fast on these chats!!
Also, when I read Gene's chat last week and read about the "sores" - first my face get beet red while reading it, then I couldn't stop laughing.

Dave Barry: But still, he ought to be fired.


Jelly, Kentucky: Friends who have attended your book signings tell me you are much funnier in print than in person (and since they are at your book signings, I presume they find your books funny too). As a writer, how do you explain that?

Dave Barry: In person, my entire humor repertoire consists of making flatulence noises with my hands.


Waldorf, Md.: Wait just a second: do I deduce from The Washington Post newsroom poster's question and your answer that you, Achenbach and Weingarten all worked at the same place at the same time? (And that, of all people, HE was in charge of you two?) Were there any survivors in that organization from that train wreck?

Dave Barry: You deduced correctly. That was at the Miami Herald, some of which can still be seen today.


Leesburg, Va.: My cousin in India is a die-hard fan of yours and I just shipped him your calendar and two books by Fedex. Shipping cost more than the cost of these "worthy" items. Can you ask Amazon.com to ship free to Dave fans all over the world?

Dave Barry: Yes.


Washington, D.C.: PC or Mac?

Dave Barry: I have both. That is the kind of cyberstud I am. I like them both for different reasons: The Mac beacause of the terrific design and ease of use, and the PC because I enjoy talking to the fun guys 'n' gals at Technical Support.


Silver Spring, Md.: Dave, I have to admit that I didn't enjoy this year's review as much as in the past. Maybe I'm just not inclined to find humor in the past year's events. Or maybe it's the medication.

But I did like the North Korea bits.

Dave Barry: Well, OK.


Columbia, Md.: Unless I've missed it ( and I normally don't miss these things because, you see, I have no life) you have not weighed in on the "B.C."/alleged slam of Islam cartoon. Are you abdicating your responsibility to speak on this momentous issue, sir?

Dave Barry: I leave that to Gene, who is on that story like pus on a sore.


Washington, D.C.: The fact that Washington, DC the capital of the "greatest democracy in the world" is not represented in Congress sounds so crazy that it could be in one of your columns. Agree?

Dave Barry: Yes, but -- and a lot of people do not know this -- Washington, D.C. has FOUR SEATS in the British House of Lords.


Hotda, MN: Do you work on the "Year in Review" column throughout the year, or do you wait to see how things are going to turn out?

Dave Barry: I write it two horrible, tense weeks at the end of November, then desperately hope that nothing really awful will happen in December. I can usually squeeze in a couple of late-breaking events, like (this year) the capture of Saddam.


New Haven, Conn.: Do humor columnists attract groupies?

Dave Barry: Tragically, we do not. We attract middle-aged male attorneys who would like to be humor columnists.


Gum, Idaho: There is a man who writes a weekly column for The Washington Post Magazine whose name is also Dave Barry. Are you guys related? Do you know this guy?

Dave Barry: No, but I hear he uses a LOT of capital letters.


Chevy Chase, Md.: Dave, You seem to want to fire a lot of people today. Please explain.

washingtonpost.com : Ya. Explain.

Dave Barry: I'm just thinking, hey, let's clear out some of the "deadwood" here at the Washington Post, so instead of being just a good newspaper, it can take a step toward being a good newspaper with fewer employees.


Seattle, Wash.: Dave, where do you stand on the question of a grown man sharing his bed with children?

Dave Barry: I think it's fine, as long as the grown man is in a separate state when this happens.


Edna Buchanan: Dave: Please come home, all is forgiven.


Dave Barry: Edna --
Put down the gun, and we'll talk.


Burke, Va.: Dave:

On behalf of all Haverford graduates everywhere, I must ask a question that has puzzled me since my days on the Main Line studying at the feet of Roger Lane:

Why are Bryn Mawr women so grumpy?



Dave Barry: Well, when I was at Haverford, they were grumpy because pretty much their only hope for a social life was Haverford guys, and we were not what you would call prizes.


Washington, D.C.: Do you have any involvement with the cartoons that run with your column?

Dave Barry: No, unless you like them a lot, in which case: I draw them.


Peter, New Zealand: So what was your favorite movie of 2003? It was "The Lord of the Rings--The Return of the King," wasn't it? Wasn't that movie great? I've seen it five times already, and I might see it for a sixth time. And it's only 3 1/2 hours long! It could've been longer, with even more endings! Thank you for putting that movie on your "Top 10" list of great films for 2003!

Dave Barry: I really like the way that guy, whatshisname, does that thing, and that other guy is like, WHOA.


College Park, Md.: Dave,
Thanks for the great article! I was wondering if you thought that Saddam coming out of his hole and seeing his shadow means 4 more years of bush?

Dave Barry: Har.


New York, NY: This year the University of Delaware won the Division 1AA Football Championship. They are known as the "Fighting Blue Hens". I was wondering if you have ever found yourself with a blue hen and if so, what did you do to cheer her up?

Dave Barry: I always found that to be a wonderful name for a football team. Also, for many years, the coach of the Fighting Blue Hens was named "Tubby."


McLean, Va.: There are a lot of folks who have had success blending humor with another area of expertise, like the Magliozzi's with car advice and humor or Kornheiser with spoorts and humor. Do you feel your one-dimensional act of humor alone is enough for long-term success and riches, or do you see yourself branching out to other areas of commentary?

Dave Barry: Since sports and cars are taken, I am thinking my market "niche" will be combining humor with calculus.


Washington, D.C.: When asked what he thought the big event of 2004 will be, Sam Donaldson replied "discovery of life in outer space." Do you have a similar prediction?

Dave Barry: I think they're going to discover death in outer space.


Silver Spring, Md.: How do you handle the pressure of having to be funny ALL the time, even live like this?

Dave Barry: Most days, I do not sit around chatting.


Enid, Okla.: You may not attract groupies, Dave, but I noticed YOU got the thongs that were thrown onstage at the RBR concert in Austin last month. What do you have to say for yourself?

Dave Barry: It was just the one thong, and there was a resume attached.


Baltimore, Md.: A desperate plea... PLEASE update your blog soon. I am at work today and find myself stumped as to how I can fill these vacant hours. In my withdrawal, I have even ventured out to the NEWS blogs... the horror. I mean who gives a rat's butt whether Dean believes in jesus?! HELP.

washingtonpost.com : Dave's Blog

Dave Barry: I'm going to be hiatusing for a while more, because I'm supposed to be finishing a book. Actually, TWO books. And if the editors of those books are reading this chat: Hi! The Dave Barry writing these messages is not the same as the person who is supposed to be writing those books! It is a different Dave Barry!


Annapolis, Md.: Your column appears in my local paper (The Capital) exactly one week before it appears in The Washington Post. What's going on?

Dave Barry: ALL the news appears one week late in the Washington Post. The Post has yet to inform its readers about the Death Asteroid.


Arlington, Va.: Hey: A long time ago (like 12 years or so), I think I really ticked you off. I called and left a message on your machine for a school project trying to get you to talk to our class. At any rate, my message was way too long, because I had to start laughing at your answering machine message (which was about being the headquarters for Mario Cuomo, I think). At any rate, you changed your message right after that (when I called back) to this really professional one, and you sounded ticked. I have always felt bad about this. So I'm writing to say sorry. Sorry.



Dave Barry: It's OK! What's your home number?


Former Mawrtyr: Dave's right. Burke, Va., should know that the reason for a great deal of bi-college grumpiness was indeed the Hobbsian nature of most 'Fords -- to wit, nasty, brutish and short.

- A disciple of Mary Pat

Dave Barry: I am not saying anything at all about Bryn Mawr women, here.


Washington, D.C.: Hey Dave, how about closing out the hour with some toilet humor?

Dave Barry: I leave that kind of stuff to Mr. Pus-Ooozing Sore, if you know who I mean (Gene Weingarten).


Fruit Cove, Fla.: So Dave, what's it feel like to know that your stuff
appeals mostly to middle-aged men?

Dave Barry: Well, as long as it appeals to somebody.


New Haven, Conn.: What was so appealing about Miami that you made it your home?

Dave Barry: The weather, the diversity, the natural beauty, the easy access to machine guns....


Washington, D.C.: Dave,
I thought you might find it humorous that I
keep your book in my bathroom for those
ever important #2 reads. Does this
offend you?

Dave Barry: No, it's an honor, second only to having a column attached to a refrigerator with a magnet shaped like fruit.


Santa Barbara, Calif.: Forget the Fighting Blue Hens. Go Banana Slugs.

Dave Barry: Yeah, but they're TRYING to be funny.


Waldorf, Md.: I heard a gentleman in a store the other day say, "Show me the Money." Do you have any special catch phrases you'd like to hear more of in 2004??

Dave Barry: Personally? I'd like to hear people say, "Dave, here is some money."


Dave Barry: Well, I see we have reached the end of our chat hour. Thanks for reading. Sorry if I didn't get to all of your questions. Gene Weingarten has agreed to answer them tomorrow, if he still works there, which I think we can all agree would be a horrible mistake.


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