Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Up To A Point: Daily Beast Interview With Humorist P.J. O'Rourke

The Daily Beast offers an interview with one of my favorite writers, P.J. O'Rourke, and announced that the humorist will write a weekly column for the online publication.

The legendary libertarian humorist is joining The Daily Beast as a weekly columnist. Here, he riffs on his rapid-fire style, why politics is as funny as ever, and more.
So, what do you think makes a great column?

A lot of newspaper columns used to be written in a rat-a-tat-tat, fast-paced style—and they tended to be funny. They were a little relief from the grimmer, grayer parts of the newspaper, and one of the best people at doing this was Will Rogers. He had a weekly newspaper column called “Illiterate’s Digest,” and it was just him riffing off the events of the day. Many of the things we remember Will Rogers saying—like “I don’t belong to an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”—are right out of his column. And they didn’t need a lot of connective tissue because the connective tissue was really what had happened that last week and so there was no need for throat clearing at the beginning or summation at the end or bloviating in between.

... Has the humor gone out of politics?

Oh, no. It’s better than ever. Well, not better than ever—we can’t possibly top certain portions of the Clinton years. But politics is always hilarious because everybody’s mad at each other. I mean, go back to the Civil War. A man named David Ross Locke wrote these columns that Lincoln was crazy about and they were supposedly by a fellow named Petroleum V. Nasby, who was the world’s stupidest southern sympathizer. He was an Ohio Copperhead type who sympathized with the southern states in a way that was so blatantly stupid—lest we think we invented irony—that it was just hilarious. And people don’t get any madder at each other than they were during the Civil War. People say, oh, politics is so polarized today, and I’m thinking…1861, that was polarized.

Your column will be called “Up to a Point.” Why did you choose that name?

The most famous book among all foreign correspondents is Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop. The newspaper in Scoop is, of course, The Daily Beast, which is owned by the moronic Lord Copper and run by the obsequious Mr. Salter. There’s a brief passage which I think all reporters know. “Whenever Lord Copper was right, Mr. Salter would say, ‘Definitely, Lord Copper,’ and whenever Lord Copper was wrong, Mr. Salter would way, ‘Up to a point, Lord Copper.’” Then follows a little snatch of dialogue where Lord Copper says, “Hong Kong—belongs to us, doesn’t it?” “Definitely, Lord Copper.” “Yokohama—capital of Japan, isn’t it?” “Up to a point, Lord Copper.”

You can read the rest of the interview via the below link:

Note: Evelyn Waugh's Scoop is a great novel and it is one of my favorites. I reread Scoop every couple of years.

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