Dave Speaks to the World
Length: 1778 words (5.1 double-spaced pages)
When I was back home and lived with my mom, we were reading the paper together one day, she was reading the Tropic and I, the comics. When she was through with the Dave Barry column, she gasped and said out loud, "I know that shark!" Now, of course this startled me and I wondered what on earth she meant. Mom explained that the article was about a hammerhead shark, famous to Miamians and Florida Keys residents, playfully named "Big Moe". She continued to tell me that when she was about nine she went lobstering under Bahiahonda Bridge in the Keys with her dad. While lifting an old sunken car hood to retrieve the bugs, she saw a shadow pass over her. She stopped abruptly and dropped the hood to swim back to the boat. On her way back, if I remember the story correctly, the huge hammerhead passed directly over her head. This time it wasn't just the shadow she saw. Sitting in our living room at home my mom was insisting that the shark Dave Barry wrote about just HAD to be the same one. I thought this was pretty cool. Ever since then I've known who Dave Barry is.
He speaks in mysterious ways. Dave Barry is a humor columnist; his fans express what can only be explained as hero worship. After doing some light research I learned that not only is he a writer for the Miami Herald, but also for many newspapers throughout the United States. It was also brought to my attention that he has won a Pulitzer Prize for his articles and he is, or was, the lead guitarist in a rock band called the Rock Bottom Remainders. It's been said that they weren't the greatest musicians and they are no longer playing. To quote my Internet source, Dave is "an all-around nice guy who tries to protect his readers from the dangers of the world around them . . ." The text goes on to say that these dangers are exploding cows and trout falling from the sky. I suppose we would have to be devout Dave fans to really understand that.
Something else I recently learned about Dave Barry is that there is a show based on his personality.
It's on CBS at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday nights. The name of the show is Dave's World, the show is based on Barry's books Dave Barry turns 40 and Dave Barry's Greatest Hits. The show is inaccurate; in the show Dave has two kids and one dog as opposed to his real life one kid and two dogs. The show's character, "Dave," is played by Night Court's star, Harry Anderson. In the credits, Dave Barry and Harry Anderson sing "Wild Thang". I've seen maybe one episode of the show and didn't
know that it was about Dave Barry.
When I decided to actually use Dave Barry's writing as my topic, I asked my friends and classmates what they thought of the choice and most if not all responded with "Who's that?" This was a little distressing for me, I thought EVERYONE knew who Dave Barry is. How could you not know? As far as I'm concerned his column is the most interesting one in the newspaper. I like the funny page and all, but come on, we're talking about Dave Barry. He's one of the funniest guys around and unfortunately he doesn't do stand up comedy. All the adults I've ever been around love him and always discuss his latest topic.
That's when it hit me, I've spent most of my childhood around adults. That's why I'm basically alone in my interest in the man's writing. My family is fairly young, as families go. I'm the oldest grandchild of thirteen and my grandmother is only sixty. So my aunts and uncles are all pretty close in age and are never to far from mine. I've always been around adults. During the holidays I never had to sit at that card table in the corner called the kids table. Even after my brother came and the rest of the thirteen grandchildren (two on the way as I write this) came along, I was always treated older than the others. I constantly hung around the 'dults, that's what they were to me. So, I'd heard them talk about Dave Barry, this is how I can see that maybe my classmates didn't have that situation. Dave Barry is also from Miami, which is where I've lived my whole life. I guess that if you haven't lived in Miami you might not know who he is.
Through his columns, Dave speaks to many audiences. His writing isn't biased or prejudiced, after all it has no eyes to see color or creed. When he writes, anyone can laugh at it and anyone can hate it. Sometimes he speaks to only certain age groups and he sends his comments sailing "over your head." I remember being told this when I was little, when adults made "adult" jokes or used "adult" words, the younger ears in the room were neither expected nor meant to understand it. This is how Dave Barry writes. He doesn't expect everyone to get his jokes.
Barry's general audience is the middle aged, thirty to fifty-year-olds; I'm not sure who decides what middle aged means, it could be written somewhere. I wouldn't even know where to look for that information. I guess the best definition would be people with nine-to-five jobs and families with small children. It's hard for me to explain how I know this, but only a middle aged American could appreciate an article about typical vacationing in the U.S. A middle aged man, who has been on a dozen or so shopping trips with his wife, will understand an article about woman's size dilemma better than a just-out-of-college-bachelor. A man who is forty years old will better appreciate the Gift Guide because he's spent at least thirty years trying to buy unique gifts for one person or the other in his life. I guess the point is that Dave writes with experience and this middle age(d) group can relate to him better than a teenager or a senior citizen, who doesn't understand these "youngsters" today.
For example, in Dave Barry's article, "Just Her Size", he speaks to both men and women. The article is about the many stresses a woman has over her clothing size. Barry explains that this is his reasoning for stating that "women are insane." He also explains why it's hazardous for a man to be married to this insane woman. Dave depicts a scene of a man waiting for his wife outside of a clothing store. When his wife exits, she asks the deadly question, "Am I fat?" The husband is in trouble either way he answers because even if he says no, she will say he's "obviously lying because none of the size 8's fit her." This article will be understood in different ways. A married man may relate to the shopping mall scene, he may remember a time when he was faced with such a dilemma. A woman however may not find any humor in Dave poking fun at the size issue. Either way, Dave has communicated clearly with more than one audience here.
I read another article where Barry talks about the typical American vacationer. Dave makes fun of the American vacationing family for being able to "consume a pound of Cheez-Its every 50 highway miles." If you've never been on a family vacation then you couldn't possibly understand this joke. Now, granted not every family has Cheez-Its as it's road trip snack. Many choose fruit snacks, granola bars, or juice boxes. If I missed your personal favorite, I apologize, but my paper can only be so long. Dave also addresses the problem children face when being bored to death with Dad's intense need to continue "pointing out various natural wonders ("Look kids! There's a rock made from minerals!"). . ." In this case you can understand why the number one road trip question remains, "Are we there yet?" This may annoy parents, but how do the kids feel who have to endure Dad's "wisdom".
As he said in one of his articles, he has a fancy for "bathroom humor". He also admits that he has "become somewhat fixated." In the story "Smell the Roses," Dave investigates an ad for a toilet bowl cleaner. The ad shows a women holding the product telling consumers that her toilet bowl smells so good, she wants people to come and smell it. Barry found the women from the ad and it turns out she's a regular everyday person that cleans her toilet. She proudly admitted that she meant what she said in the ad and has since had neighborhood kids come and ask to smell the "Vanish Lady's" toilet.
Another topic that Dave Barry covers with the public is the annual Gift Guide, published in the Miami Herald's Tropic Magazine. This past holiday season, 1996, the Guide was twelve computer pages long. This Gift Guide includes a variety of items, from Cow Brassieres to Power Pez Dispensers. These clever items that Dave and the Gift Guide staff have listed are actual products. Some are very far fetched, but it's promised in the "Gift Guide Guarantee" that every item is in fact real and can be purchased by the everyday consumer. In this guide Dave lets us know exactly what he thinks of these products. Though, he doesn't do it directly. He sarcastically expresses to us his befuddlement and ridicule of most of these products, if not all of them.
Dave Barry is a man of many talents, but singing isn't one of them. In my earlier mention of his membership in a rock band, I said that they weren't good so they were no longer existent. I acquired this information from the Dave Barry F.A.Q. sheet. F.A.Q. stands for Frequently Asked Questions. In this sheet I read that the band was disbanded. I guess that Barry is better at writing. This was, however, another form of Dave's communication with the public, just not one of his most successful ones.
Another good source of my info is my boyfriend's dad. He is one of the many editors of the Miami Herald. He would always bring home books that he got from Dave. Needless to say, I think that Dave Barry is hilarious and more people my age should read his writing. It always manages to put a smile on my face, and it takes my worries out of my head, even if it's just for a little while.