Dave Barry’s new book, “Lessons From Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog,” came out this month. It’s a self-help book from a humorist who is openly skeptical about self-help books. The lessons he learns from his dog Lucy include making new friends, deciding to have fun and not “developing an instantaneous hatred for people I don’t know.”
We talked with him about why he wrote it, what he learned from it and whether he should change his public persona from funnyman who tells booger jokes to enlightened self-help guru who practices yoga. (He does not do yoga.)
Are you now a self-help guru?
I’m not known for writing self-help books. Usually when someone is done reading my books they’ll say, “That didn’t help me at all.” People are usually stupider after reading my books.
Even if you’re not a self-help guru, does this book change your public persona from a funnyman who likes booger jokes?
Nah. It’s been too many years of booger jokes.
Will reading it make me a better person?
Yes, definitely. Much better. You’re not a very good person right now, I can tell. You need three or four copies of it.
Did writing this book make you a better person?
Yes. I actually think it did. I wasn’t kidding when I wrote it. Everything I wrote in the book I meant. The last chapter in the book [dealing with a sick child] permanently changed my way of thinking. In a good way, I think. It made me much more aware of what’s important. I can’t bring myself to get upset or excited about stuff that seems trivial. You know, I’m not going to ever again care about something someone put on Twitter.
Why did you feel you needed to write this book?
Being 70, you kind of look at your life. It’s a big one, the next big one is 80. You think this is kind of it, I’m not going to change too much. Then one day I was looking at Lucy lying on the floor in my office and I realized she’s happier than I am. I never argue in the book dogs are intelligent. I say they are wise.
Did anything surprise you as you started trying out Lucy’s lessons?
The thing I found most difficult is making friends. I’m not good at it but I’m making more of an effort. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m shy. I’ve worked at it, and I have made a few new friends. I’m not going to name any names, and it’s not like we go on play dates, but I have been more open to having new friendships.
In the book you write about being more present with your family and letting go of anger, not being so quick to be critical of other people. How was it for you being introspective?
Whenever I get introspective, I worry because the humor mentality is you’re always working to the next laugh. If you’re not, you worry you’re going to blow the audience. With the book, I tried really hard to make it funny but there’s still me sincerely in there. I thought people would say: “Aw, he’s turned into a sap in his old age.” I don’t think I have turned into a sap in my old age. If anybody thinks that, I’d like them to confront me and I’m willing to fight about it.
Is Lucy getting any of the proceeds from this book?
She is not. She is getting fed on a regular basis, she is getting a lot of scratching and I pretend I want her ball. That’s all she wants out of life.
If readers have one takeaway from your book, what do you want it to be?
Try to live in the moment and also have some perspective about what’s going on in your life. Especially now, as a nation we’re kind of insane. Everybody is angry and they’re dividing the world into friends and enemies. You can’t possibly be my friend if you don’t have all the correct views. Instead of saying, “Hey I have my health and people around me I love and that’s pretty great.” We don’t seem to a be a very calm country right now. I wish people would be more aware of what’s good in their lives.