Dave Barry

On this date in 1947, author and humorist David McAlister Barry was born in Armonk, N.Y. (home to IBM’s corporate headquarters). His father and grandfather were Presbyterian ministers, but Barry grew up attending an Episcopal church, where he was an altar boy, because Armonk had no Presbyterian congregation.

He recalled his dad as being “more of a social worker than like a pastor.” Barry was raised “sort of religious” but he really wasn’t and called himself an atheist. “It’s okay to believe whatever you believe as long as you don’t think that everyone has to believe it, and if you’re willing to laugh a little bit about your own beliefs, then it’s just going to be easier for everybody to get along with different beliefs.” (Barry, undated video on Big Think web portal)

He had a very happy, stable childhood with “the coolest parents in the world.” At Pleasantville High School, he was voted Class Clown in 1965, then graduated with an English major from Pennsylvania’s Quaker-affiliated Haverford College in 1969, the year he married Lois Ann Shelnut. (Later oft repeated: “Haverford College — Official Motto: No, not Harvard.”) He had two subsequent marriages: to Beth Lenox in 1976 (with a son Robert) and Michelle Kaufman in 1996 (with a daughter Sophie).

Barry worked as a newspaper reporter, editor and columnist until 1975, when he joined Burger Associates, a consulting firm that taught effective business writing. “He spent nearly eight years trying to get various businesspersons to for God’s sake stop writing things like ‘Enclosed please find the enclosed enclosure,’ but he eventually realized that it was hopeless.” (Author bio, davebarry.com)

In 1983 he started an association with the Miami Herald that lasted until 2004. It was there he developed his chops as a widely syndicated humor columnist. He received the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary “for his consistently effective use of humor as a device for presenting fresh insights into serious concerns.” Other finalists were Molly Ivins, Ira Berkow and Michael Kinsley.

“I always worry when I start thinking my work has to have meaning,” he later wrote. “I don’t write to help people, I write to be funny. Listen, I’d be happy if my column always ran on the comics page, then it would be clear my only goal is entertaining.” (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Oct. 20, 2001)

His lengthy Year in Review annual columns are reader favorites. From 2021: “The Capitol riot is widely condemned, with much of the blame falling on Trump. He swiftly receives the harshest punishment allowed under the Constitution: He is permanently banned from Twitter, the first sitting president to suffer this fate since Chester A. Arthur.”

One of his most recent books is proof that Barry strives to be silly. “A Field Guide to the Jewish People” (2019), co-written with Alan Zweibel and Adam Mansbach, has an explanatory blurb: “Who they are, where they come from, what to feed them, what they have against foreskins.” He’s published over 40 fiction and nonfiction books, including ones for young adults and children.

From 1993-97, CBS aired the sitcom “Dave’s World” based on his books “Dave Barry Turns 40” and “Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits.” It starred Harry Anderson as Barry and DeLane Matthews as his wife Beth. He identifies politically as a Libertarian and has run several less-than-serious presidential campaigns. 

PHOTO: Barry at age 63 in Washington in 2011; Amazur photo under CC 3.0

Freedom From Religion Foundation