Ethics Hero: Humorist Dave Barry


Humorist Dave Barry managed to find sufficient humor in 2016 to write his annual satirical year-end review and not fail to reach the high standards he has set for himself in this endeavor for about four decades. That would be justification enough for making the 69-year-old writer 2017’s first ethics hero, but there is more.

Most striking, perhaps, is that the column is both funny and fair. Unlike virtual all topical satire today, it does not take sides, nor show partisan bias. Some of this may be related to the fact that Barry is a self-proclaimed libertarian (perhaps explaining why his long piece did not exploit the humor potential in the campaign of the ridiculous Gary Johnson, or even more, surprising, the fat naked guy running around the podium at the Libertarian convention), but most of it springs from his possession of basic integrity as well as an impressive absence of bias. This distinguishes Dave Barry from such alleged comics and satirists as Samantha Bee, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Amy Shumer, Chelsea Handler, Chris Rock, Seth Myers, Sarah Silverman, Bill Maher, John Oliver, Larry Wilmore, Trevor Noah, and the Saturday Night Live writers, all of whose point of view can be fairly summarized as the belief that if a Democrat, progressive or President Obama has ever done anything foolish or ridiculous, there’s probably a good reason for it.

This remarkable trait, now almost extinct but once known as “an open mind,” allows Barry to write such passages as..

And we voters did our part, passing judgment on the candidates, thinning the herd, rejecting them one by one. Sometimes we had to reject them more than once; John Kasich didn’t get the message until his own staff felled him with tranquilizer darts. But eventually we eliminated the contenders whom we considered to be unqualified or disagreeable, whittling our choices down until only two major candidates were left. And out of all the possibilities, the two that We, the People, in our collective wisdom, deemed worthy of competing for the most important job on Earth, turned out to be …

… drum roll …

… the most flawed, sketchy and generally disliked duo of presidential candidates ever!

Yes. After all that, the American people, looking for a leader, ended up with a choice between ointment and suppository…


On the Republican side, the big issue — as you would expect, given the stakes in this election — is Donald Trump’s hand size and whether it correlates with the size of his portfolio, which he claims is huge, although he is reluctant to show it to the non-supermodel public. The hand-size issue is raised by Marco Rubio, who scores in the early polls, then fades as voters realize that he is still in the early stages of puberty. Trump’s strongest rival is Ted Cruz, a veteran debater so knowledgeable and confident that Mahatma Gandhi would want to punch him in the face. Meanwhile Jeb Bush, who was considered the early favorite, fails to gain traction with the voters despite having by far the most comprehensive set of policy initiativezzz

Sorry! We nodded off thinking about Jeb, as did the voters.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is widely presumed to be the front-runner based on being a historic woman with a lengthy resume of service to the nation who, with her husband Bill, has serviced the nation for decades to the tune of several hundred million dollars. She is declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses via a controversial and confusing process that, in some precincts, involves dodgeball. But Clinton faces an unexpectedly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders, a feisty 217-year-old Vermont senator with a message of socialism, but the good kind of socialism where everybody gets a lot of free stuff, not the kind where starving people fight over who gets the lone remaining beet at the co-op. Sanders wins the New Hampshire Democratic primary, followed — in what some observers see as a troubling sign — by Vladimir Putin.


Donald Trump goes to Mexico, having been informed by his team of foreign-policy advisers that this is where Mexicans come from. He meets with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and although he does not try to persuade Peña Nieto that Mexico should pay for the huge imaginary wall that he has promised to build, Trump does demonstrate his legendary prowess as a hard-nosed businessman by negotiating what he describes as “a fantastic price” on a souvenir sombrero that he claims is “easily 4 feet in diameter.”

Meanwhile, newly released State Department emails cause some people to suggest that the reason a variety of dodgy foreign businesspeople and nations gave millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state was that they expected — get a load of THIS wacky right-wing conspiracy theory! — to receive special access to or favors from the U.S. government. Hillary has no choice but to roll her eyes and laugh in a violently unnatural manner at this latest attempt to use these discredited smear tactics to prevent her, a historic and lifelong woman, from fighting for working families as well as working for fighting families.

I have only one complaint, or perhaps “rueful observation” is a better term. In Barry’s entire 12 month summary, Barack Obama is only mentioned twice. This suggests to me that even Dave Barry is  afraid to make fun of President Obama, just like everyone else in the humor field for the past eight years, or perhaps that the tragic failure of the nation’s first black President, who came into office with so much promise and carrying the hopes of so many, just can’t be made amusing, even by a master satirist.

21 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Humorist Dave Barry

  1. Dave Barry is a hate savant. I salute him. (with the middle finger, of course)
    Seeriously (that’s how I misspelled it, and now I’m sticking with it), that was a side-splittingly, head-explodingly funny commentary (by Barry; by me, well, that goes without saying, because like Barry, I am without peer).

  2. He poked fun at Hillary? What an unpatriotic and sexist bigot, completely incapable of stifling his bias for the common good. He poked fun at Trump? Great! It’s every American’s duty to undermine that evil boor at every turn. Good job fighting the fascist!

  3. Dave Barry will always be my favorite humorist. This column perfectly illustrates why: instead of walking away from it with a more dour outlook on life, whether because of how many bleak things are happening, or because I just finished reading a partisan, myopic hate-filled rant, I come away from his article with a much more optimistic attitude.

    Sure, dumb, horrible things happen, but a good humorist helps us put things in the right perspective. At the very least, I know that I’ll be able to read a genuinely funny piece on it at the end of the year.

    It probably helps, as you pointed out, that he doesn’t keep either side very close to his heart, but his willingness to lovingly roast both sides seems so rare these days. Tina Fey does a pretty good job of it, but I wish it were more common.

    Great article!

  4. . . . [T]he tragic failure of the nation’s first black President, who came into office with so much promise and carrying the hopes of so many, just can’t be made amusing, even by a master satirist.


  5. CNN told us over and over that Donald Trump was a colossally ignorant, narcissistic, out-of-control sex-predator buffoon; Fox News countered that Hillary Clinton was a greedy, corrupt, coldly calculating liar of massive ambition and minimal accomplishment. And in our hearts we knew the awful truth: They were both right.

    Quoted for Truth.
    However, Trump is also a greedy, corrupt, liar of massive ambition.

    Even that we could handle, except for his Theocratic Radical Right vizirs. Conservative, they ain’t.

    Getting back to the article… Excellent satire. I wonder if such will still exist soon though.

  6. Sigh. Speaking of forgetting “The Fantasticks”, Ethics Alarms has now swelled the ranks of those who have forgotten how to spell it. Oops — if they ever knew, that is.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.