I’m especially happy to have this interview on Ask the Agent. Who’s to Say What’s Obscene is the first book that I have contracted as an agent that is being published. And by City Lights, the right publisher for this book. One of the things I like about my job is waking up in the morning to big surprises. So one morning I logged on to my computer. And here is an email from the guy who was one of my heroes 40 years ago. I’m not sure that I can say that the Disneyland Memorial Orgy had the same impact on my intellectual and moral development as Tolstoy or Camus, but I suppose it was right up there.
Paul is having a tour for his new book. He will be appearing at the following venues:
I hope you can be there to see him.
Andy: Well, since you have undoubtedly been asked about this in every interview for the last 40 years, could you tell us about the
Disneyland Memorial Orgy?
Paul: When Walt Disney died, it occurred to me that the characters created by their Intelligent Designer who were suddenly in a state of
suspended animation could be released from their decades-longinhibitions and participate in an old-fashioned Roman Orgy.
Andy: Looking at it now, it really doesn’t seem that shocking or obscene. Irreverent, yes. What would you do today if you were designing it that
would be different?
Paul: I assigned Mad magazine artist Wally Wood to draw the center spread for The Realist, my satirical magazine, and the ultimate design was
strictly his. If it were done today, I suppose that genitalia would be shown. More importantly, female characters would be more assertive.
Andy: Ok. So you have a new book out. It is a wonderful collection of your thoughts on humor and politics. Can you tell us some more about it?
Paul: “Who’s to Say What’s Obscene: Politics, Culture & Comedy in America Today” is a collection of my articles and columns over the last few
years. Things have been accelerating at such an increasing rate that I had to keep updating events until the very last minute.
Andy: You must have had a pretty good agent?
Paul: Yes, Andy had my interests at heart and consistently responded to my e-mails without delay. The problem is, he answered questions that I never asked…and they were the wrong answers, too.
Andy: Hey, you weren’t exactly a walk in the park, yourself, bub!
You have been involved with comedy since the Fifties. Isn’t that
right? You were a friend of Lenny Bruce. Can you say something about how humor has changed over the years?
Paul: Lenny was a pioneer in breaking the taboos not only in language but also comedic concepts and satirical targets, talking about teachers’
low salaries instead of spouting mother-in-law jokes. Now irreverence for its own sake tends to trivialize but that’s the risk of free speech.
Andy: Am I to understand that you were a classical violinist? A child prodigy even? Isn’t this a little strange.
Paul: It wasn’t strange to me because I wasn’t aware of any options. At the age of six I became the youngest concert artist in any field ever to
perform at Carnegie Hall. But, though I displayed an advanced technique for playing the violin, my true passion was to make people
Andy: Do you still play the violin with virtuosity? Who is your favorite classical composer?
Paul: I was relieved to quit playing the violin when my teacher died. My musical tastes are eclectic, and I like rock’n’roll better than
classical music, although when I accompanied Groucho Marx on his first and only LSD trip, I really appreciated the Bach Cantata #7.
Andy: How did you get Arianna Huffington to write an introduction to the book?
Paul: She’s a friend, and I’m a contributor to Huffington Post, so I simply asked her and she came through. You can google my home page on
paulkrassner.com and click on her foreword.