San Joaquin Valley Town Hall hosts nationally syndicated columnist

Sydney Belmont | The Feather Online

Comedian and columnist Dave Barry spoke at the SJV Town Hall, March 15.

To enrich the intellectual perspective of Fresno County, SJV Town Hall began a monthly series of lectures given by a variety of speakers. This month, Dave Barry, author, columnist and humor writer, was brought to Fresno to share his comedy, humor, and journalism background, March 15.

Barry worked for the Miami Herald for several years, and is known for his humor series, printed in over 500 newspapers all over the nation, including the Fresno Bee. He has also been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1988 and won the Walter Cronkite Award for excellence in journalism in 2005.

One of Barry’s columns was largely responsible for the movement to observe International Talk Like a Pirate Day every year on September 19.

Barry has been interested in humor for a long time, even as far back as high school when he was elected class clown in 1965. He started his career as a reporter for a small paper in Pennsylvania, where he covered short stories and wrote humorous columns when he got the chance.     

Later in his career, however, he would discover that reporting was not for him. This came about in a rather embarrassing incident in the early 2000s when Barry was part of the press corps for the First Lady of the United States: Barbara Bush. At this time Barry was looking for ideas for his column and was staying towards the back of the crowd.

During this trip, all the journalists were pulled on stage for a picture with the First Lady. As the picture was being taken, Barry found himself right next to the president’s wife. This is when he turned to her, and feeling compelled to say something uttered, “I shop at the same store as your son, Jeb.” Barry said that this became an extremely embarrassing part of his career and was one of the factors that motivated him to focus on writing humor columns.  

The instant you have any idea of what you want to do, be it journalism or anything else, start getting summer internships, or during the school year internships, where you work for nothing but get actual work experience. –Dave Barry

While still in high school, Barry had no idea what he would do in the future, as he was not aware of the possibility of a humorist career.  

“When I was in high school I never thought there was a possible career as a humor writer,” Barry said. “I kept writing humor whenever I could though, and eventually I got into a position where I could have fun, and pretty much not have to do any serious work for the rest of my life.”

As an accomplished journalist, Barry gave some tips for those who wish to pursue this field.

He writes on the daily basis and believes it to be of great importance for a writer to dedicate as much time as possible for this activity. Reading also serves as a significant factor in improving one’s writing skills.

“Nowadays it’s good to have multi-media skills,” Barry said. “It is also very important to start early, because one of the biggest mistakes many people make is thinking that the more training and schooling they get the better their job will be. But the opposite is true. Getting internships and producing something that actually goes online or appears in a newspaper is way more important than any classes.”

Sydney Belmont | The Feather Online

Barry shared some of his experiences over the course of his professional career during his speech in Saroyan Theatre.

As a successful journalist and writer Barry encouraged aspiring writers to work hard and was happy to offer some advice from his own experience.

“You have to be more flexible these days than what you used to be,” Barry said. “When I was starting out, you basically wrote a story and then put it in the paper. But now you not only have to write the story but also tweet about it. So once again, it’s really good to have multi media skills. The instant you have any idea of what you want to do be it journalism or anything else, start getting summer internships, or during the school year internships, where you work for nothing but get actual work experience.”

Barry has written more than 30 books, including the novels Big Trouble, Lunatics, Tricky Business and, most recently, Insane City. Two of Barry’s books were the basis for the CBS sitcom Dave’s World.

Barry continued his time at the SJV Town Hall with a series of stories illustrating the comedy in everyday life, and covering subjects which ranged from politics to more personal things. The lecture ended with a short Q and A session and Barry signed books as well.

Dave Barry is the second to last speaker of this season of SJV Town Hall. Neuroscientist Lisa Genova will speak April 5.

For more SJV Town Hall articles, please read: Marc Lapadula Discusses Four Society Changing Films.        

These writers can be reached via email: Tatiana Iest and Matthew Sue.

Follow The Feather via Twitter @thefeather, Instagram @thefeatheronline and Facebook @thefeatheronline.