Thursday, July 16, 2009
by Justin Berton
To Paul Krassner, obscenity is finally returning to its roots.
A prominent cultural provocateur since the '60s, the 77-year-old
comedian, political humorist, journalist, writer (etc.), says true
obscenity is now evolving into its proper definition: Something that
causes real harm.
Pornography: not obscene.
Running Sarah Palin for vice president? Totally obscene.
"They knew who she was but thought they could cram her down our
throats," Krassner said, noting Palin's stance against using
government funds to pay for rape kits. "And if her daughter got
pregnant (from rape), her daughter would have to ask for a raise in
her allowance just to pay for her kit. That's obscene."
Krassner's latest book of essays, "Who's to Say What's Obscene?
Politics, Culture, and Comedy in America Today," should reach
bookshelves any day now; his previous book, "In Praise of Indecency,"
another collection of musings and rants, has become a fixture in mall
bookstores looking to fling the bird at the Man (it's the book cover
with a large middle finger sprouting from a skyscraper, usually
prominently displayed at the greeting table).
Krassner has been pushing America's buttons all his adult life. As an
omnipresent figure in the '60s, he edited Lenny Bruce's
autobiography, "How to Talk Dirty and Influence People," took LSD
with Timothy Leary (and introduced it to Groucho Marx), rode with Ken
Kesey's Merry Pranksters, co-founded a political party with Abbie
Hoffman and started a magazine with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. He
currently writes columns for High Times magazine and the online
magazine Adult Video News.
"They say I'm 77, but I've got a mind like a 23-year-old," Krassner said.
Since Krassner first started using humor to shine a light on
America's great hypocrisies, the national discourse has shifted
dramatically, he said. Nowadays, mainstream culture has become so
allegedly subversive, it supports two satirical newscasters - Jon
Stewart and Stephen Colbert - and just about everyone owns a
sarcastic take on the state of the world.
"I used to say, 'Irreverence is our only sacred cow,' " Krassner
said, "but now irreverence is a big industry."
Commentary, book signing. 8 p.m. Fri. $19.50. Freight & Salvage
Coffeehouse, 1111 Addison St., Berkeley. (510) 548-1761.