R.I.P. Paul Krassner (1932-2019)

Let us take a moment to remember the late great Paul Krassner, who died earlier this week at the age of 87.

Krassner played Carnegie Hall at age 6 (the youngest ever), found a mentor in Lenny Bruce, founded the first real counterculture magazine in The Realist, and founded the Yippie movement in the 1960s, which ran a pig for president and most imfamously clashed with police in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Born April 9, 1932, in Brooklyn, the young Krassner was a child prodigy on the violin, playing Carnegie Hall in January 1939. But after majoring in journalism at Baruch College, he entered the world of stand-up comedy.

Using the stage name Paul Maul, he found a mentor in Lenny Bruce. He also worked for MAD magazine, but realizing a need for a magazine serving adults and not just kids, he launched The Realist in 1958, where he could write about Bruce and publish all sorts of work that would never get published in MAD. Such as a cartoon lampooning Walt Disney by having Disney characters engaged in sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Mostly sex and drugs, though. He also realized he could get away with foul language if it were patriotic; hence, his “Fuck Communism” poster.

Among Krassner’s collaborations with Bruce: Editing the comic’s 1965 autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People; and writing the liner notes to Bruce’s Let the Buyer Beware. For the latter, Krassner earned a Grammy nomination.

High Times named him to its counterculture hall of fame, and put together this video back then in his honor:

Decades later, Krassner talked about the state of political satire in 2005.

In a 2012 interview, which was released posthumously by Reason this week, Krassner acknowledged that his earliest comedy work included jokes he sold to Bil Keane before The Family Circus comic strip!

I sold two cartoon ideas to him. This was in the early ’50s. I saw something, it might have been at a World Fair or something, about channel changers. So I just had these two little kids playing, one holding a toy gun and the other holding a remote control. One kid says, “Bang! You’re dead.” And the other says, “Bang! You’re Channel 2.”

And the other one was a whole family watching a TV set, and the caption was: “How come these family shows never show any family watching a family show?”

In that interview, he also reminisced about loving how he blurred the line between satire and journalism deliberately to prank readers even further, particularly with respect to conspiracy theories.

Krassner died at his home in California on July 21. He was 87. He will be missed.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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