Dave Barry: The Evolution of a Creative Genius

Dave Barry: The Evolution of a Creative Genius

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Dave Barry: The Evolution of a Creative Genius

Humor, as a creative effort, has been respected throughout the world, I’m sure, since the beginning of spoken language. There is nothing in the world like conjuring up a joke or some other anecdote that sends a group of people off into a fit of laughter. In fact, throughout time, people have attempted to make humor at least some part of their professional career. Court jesters made the royalty of the castle laugh at his foolish behavior. Playwrights have included humor in their tragic works to provide some comedic relief from all of the terribly sad events. Today is no different. The sheer number of careers available for those interested in making people laugh for a living reflects our society’s great appreciation for novel humor. Comedians, book writers, columnists, actors, television and movie writers, cartoonists, and musicians all attempt to add some laughter to peoples’ lives on a daily basis.

Dave Barry, as a creative humor writer, has proven himself quite successful in the field. As a humorist, he has created in many different fields of humor, his products including a number of very successful books, a weekly column syndicated in several prominent newspapers across the country, and even a musical band. Barry has proven himself a master, and debatably, a maker, in the verbal/linguistic domain of Gardner’s intelligences. His intelligences span beyond that, however, and include proficiency in both the visual/spatial and musical domains.

At the present time, Dave Barry is at the pinnacle of his career, enjoying the sweet success of creating something truly novel that millions of people can enjoy every day. The growing-up and maturation process Barry has gone through over the course of his young, and adult life reflects the transformations in Gardner’s intelligences he has experienced. The relationship between child and adult creator, the relationship between Barry and others in his field, and the relationship between him and his work have all changed in meaning over the course of his life, as reflected by the profound changes he has undergone over the course of his life.

Growing Up

Dave Barry was born in 1947, to a middle class working family in the small town of Armonk, New York.

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He led an average life, attending public school through the elementary and high school level. His parents supported his endeavors, which, unusually, did not include writing until his acceptance into Haverford College in 1965. He eventually realized his love for writing, and decided to declare English as his major shortly after being accepted. He graduated four years later with a bachelor’s degree in English. Shortly after that, in 1969, Barry began his professional career in 1983, working for the “Daily Local News,” in West Chester, PA. After working as a non-humor columnist at the Daily Local News, in 1983 Barry was hired as a humor columnist with the Miami Herald. The staff there saw and appreciated his linguistic talents, and decided he would be a welcome addition to their publication. Barry has accumulated all of his awards while employed by the Herald, and has used his popularity as a newspaper columnist to branch out into other areas of work (Casner, 2001).

Relation of Creator to Child

In my opinion, Dave Barry frequently attempts to use a child-like view of the world to enhance the effectiveness of his humor. Every person who enjoys humor is looking for something novel, or unexpected to make them laugh at things they have never noticed before. As children, humans are constantly noticing new things about their life, their contemporaries, peers, leaders, and environment that were never apparent before. Dave Barry uses a similar approach to find aspects of life that are taken for granted and forgotten about. For example, Barry wrote an article entitled “A truly terrifying act: doing the Hokey Pokey for airport security.” The inherent humor in Barry’s writing lies in his association of two previously unrelated topics to make humor out of the ordinary. In this particular example, the Hokey Pokey is an example of a “childish” experience, indicating Barry’s strong relationship with the child as a creative, and investigative entity.

Relation of Creator to Work

Dave Barry’s experience with the field of writing has changed drastically over the course of his life. At first, he saw writing only as a means by which to communicate. Then, during his time at the PA newspaper, it was a tool used to communicate important information, and not just necessarily ideas or thoughts. Then, as Barry moved on to teach effective writing to those in the business world, writing was a means for helping other people become more efficient in their respective fields through the use resources and techniques not traditionally stressed in their respective fields. Finally, Barry saw writing as a way to help others escape from reality, and enjoy a collection of words and phrases meant only to make people laugh through commentary on dominant aspects of daily life. Barry changed for himself, and for a great number of other people, the most important use of writing and the verbal/linguistic intelligence. He created a whole new style of social commentary through his unique style of combining simple words with complex topics and ideas, establishing himself as both a master and a maker in his field.

Relation of Creator to Others

As Barry began his pursuit of writing in the 1960’s, there were not many role models for humor commentary he could look to for motivation or inspiration. Barry was forced to use his heightening intrapersonal intelligence to work his way toward eventually becoming the master and maker he is today. Barry could have potentially found some motivation from contemporaries such as Rob Siegel, the current editor-in-chief of the humor newspaper the Onion, who began his humorous writing in the early eighties as Barry began his experience as a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. Both Barry and Siegel have experienced increasing success as time went on, both enjoying a great deal of time at the top of the New York Times Best Seller’s List as a result of highly successful books. Both garner a large following, so it is more than likely the two enhance their respective performances as a result of friendly, constructive competition for the hearts of humor-lovers across the globe.

On a more personal note, however, Barry did not have much motivation or inspiration on the part of his family or friends. Everyone wholeheartedly supported his cause, but he really had no contemporaries he saw regularly enough to really learn from. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Barry, after having divorced his first wife, remarried to Michelle Kaufman, a sportswriter for the Herald, in 1996. The two help each other grow and learn as writers, and still have a very successful and fruitful marriage. His family (wife and child, Sophie), at that point and ever since, have served as subject matter for many of his more recent articles in the Herald, as well as his books.


In addition to having been inspiration for his articles, Barry’s family has served as a large source of external motivation for his writing. However since Barry did not have his family at the beginning of his professional career, he had to look to other things as sources of motivation: namely, himself. Barry’s emerging intrapersonal intelligence allowed him to look within himself for motivation; his personal drive to succeed and make people laugh has served as a potent launching point for his career. Barry was not expecting to be financially successful as a direct result of his writing. As Gardner believes, “creative solutions to problems occur more often when individuals engage in an activity for its sheer pleasure that when they do so for possible external rewards” (Garnder, 25). Dave Barry is a clear example of someone who is intrinsically motivated, without dependence on outside sources for inspiration or motivation.

Barry’s Hierarchical Experience with Gardner’s Intelligences

Based on Barry’s life as I have studied it, I have found a very distinct, logical progression in the evolution of Barry’s multiple intelligences. I have found that Barry has not always shown great proficiency in all of the intelligences (Verbal/linguistic, intrapersonal, interpersonal) throughout his life.

As an originally undecided major in college, Barry lacked understanding of himself. The ability to comprehend and fully understand one’s own success, flaws, and desires falls under the domain of intrapersonal intelligence. Barry, as a young man, had difficulties finding his niche, as any young person does in high school and early college. One could argue that in finding his passion, writing, Barry increased his intrapersonal understanding, and therefore ameliorated his intrapersonal intelligence. Also, having successfully passed through the difficult and mentally challenging period of adolescence, Barry could then focus on himself as an adult, ready to make important life decisions such as career and future family that will indefinitely shape and mold his later adult life.

Having gained the power of a stronger intrapersonal intelligence, Barry was then free to use this new strength to increase his potency in other important fields of intelligence. When Barry finally decided that writing was his passion, he took it upon himself to apply for and receive a job with a newspaper, writing articles. He was still not totally sure of what he wanted to do with his life at this point, but he knew he was taking steps in the proper direction. After a few years with the PA based newspaper, Barry decided he needed to combine his two greatest loves: writing and making people laugh. He was given this opportunity at the Miami Herald, creating humorous writing on a weekly basis. It is clear that through his understanding of himself and his real desires, Barry made himself more successful in the verbal/linguistic area of intelligence. Since he was able to identify his true passion, and act on it, he was then able to create a written product of a greater caliber than he was producing at a strictly news-based job with the PA paper. Barry could branch out with the Herald and add a sense of irony, sarcasm, and parody to his work not possible with the strictly news-based writing he was producing previously. Dave had finally understood what he wanted, received it, and achieved the highest sense of intrapersonal understanding he had seen so far in his life. Consequently, his writing more reflected his desire to make people laugh, and allowed him to create literature that illustrated his humorous talents. He was not constrained by the particulars of factual information; he was finally free to become the comedic, creative entity he continues to be today.

As his verbal intelligence began to increase, more and more people across the country began to take notice. This is evidenced if only by the sheer number of people enjoying his column on a weekly basis. When he was at the PA newspaper, Barry’s writing was only read by the citizens of the town in which the paper was based, and possibly a few surrounding townships. Several thousand, at best, could read his work. He then moved on to temporarily teach effective writing to businesspeople in the industry (Key Speakers Bureau, 2001). This proved even more unfulfilling to him than the previous job at the PA newspaper, so he decided to move back toward journalism. As soon as Barry was hired by the Miami Herald, however, the local residents began to appreciate his work, and word soon got out of this comedic genius’ talent. Within a few years of his employment at the Herald, his column has been picked up by dozens of papers across the country. A partial list of the more than 400 newspapers running his article is available ¾ the way down this page. His work is now appreciated not only across the country, but across the world, as seen in the list of newspapers currently running Dave Barry’s weekly article. As a result of this hugely increased fan base, Dave has seen a steady increase in fan interactions ever since his article started gaining followers. He receives thousands of e-mails, fan letters, and phone calls from enthusiastic fans, forcing Dave to heighten his interpersonal abilities to meet the increased demand for his communication. Since his increased following, Barry has employed a booking agent, and can be seen across the country in one of his many conferences he holds, interacting with fans and critics alike. He has proven his effectiveness here, as seen by the running rate of 20 to 30 thousand dollars for a conference session starring Dave himself.

Further proof of his interpersonal ability can be seen by way of all the awards he has one over the years. In 1988, Barry proved his interpersonal as well as verbal proficiency by winning the Pulitzer prize for commentary. This is a prize rewarding a person who shows the highest level of achievement in a field combining interpersonal (commentary) and verbal abilities.

The necessary evolution of Barry’s intelligences from intrapersonal, to verbal, to interpersonal has followed an unusual, but incredible path leading to both personal and professional success.

Although Garnder does not really approach the idea of one intelligence necessarily leading to another, I believe it is an important part of any creator’s life. Especially in the field of humor, where novelty is the most important part of success, things must always be changing for the writer, and must be reflected in the product the humorist puts out. To make for a more well-rounded, and universally successful creator, change is a definite necessity.

This related to the Faustian bargain proposed by Gardner, where “the creators are so caught up in the pursuit of their work mission that they sacrificed all, especially the possibility of a rounded personal existence” (Gardner, 44). This is most definitely not the case for Dave Barry, who has strived to maintain a well-rounded personality, with respect to the seven intelligences. He has made many deliberate attempts to branch out creatively, such as his band, the “Rock Bottom Reminders” (Dave Barry FAQ, 1998), his vast array of books he has written, and the pictures he chooses to accompany his writing in each of these productions. Barry has successfully balanced his dominant intelligence, the verbal/linguistic one, with the other intelligences such as musical, and interpersonal, without any apparent negative side effects.


I have found, over the course of my research on Dave Barry, that there is a necessary evolution of a creative individual with respect to their dominant intelligences. It seems that those who do show a greater degree of this evolution have a decreasingly problematic experience with the Faustian Bargain. Those who are more willing to adapt to changing lifestyles and societies are more able to focus on being a more well-rounded individual. I am not saying that there is no room for people who are willing to sacrifice all other areas of life just to focus on their passion. These are the Gandhi’s, the Picassos, and the Grahams of the world who totally revolutionize their field. It just seems to be a more prevalent trend today to find people more focused on and interested in being both an innovator as well as a well-rounded, well-adjusted human being. Where is the cutoff between Faustian ethics and well-rounded personality? It is different for everyone. But the important thing, especially for humor writers, is to find that cutoff as quickly as possible to enhance the likelihood of success and happiness. If a humorist such as Dave Barry were to focus exclusively on being funny, his ability to focus and analyze the other areas of life he uses as fodder for his commentary would decrease, ultimately invalidating the purpose and effectiveness of his work. His ability to keep some focus in other fields, and his ability to change has proven a key element in his continued success in the entertainment and humor industry.

Sources Cited:

Barry, Dave. Miami Herald: DAVE BERRY. 2001. http://www.miami.com/herald/special/features/barry/.

Casner, Leah. Dave Barry – The Man. 2000. http://dave-barry.com/theman.html.

Gardner, Howard. Creating Minds. New York, NY.: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1993.

Key Speakers Bureau. “Keynote Speakers.” 2001. http://www.keyspeakers.com/asp_view_speaker.asp?id=212.

Steele, Michael. Dave Berry Frequently Asked Questions. 1998. http://www.cs.uu.nl/wais/html/na-dir/dave-barry-faq.html.

the Onion Homepage. http://www.theonion.com. 2001.
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