Who's to Say What's Obscene?

Who's to Say What's Obscene?
Politics, Culture and Comedy in America Today
Introduction by Arianna Huffington

Merry Prankster still stirring the pot
Apr 7, 2010

"It's been said that comedy -- with its aggressively entrepreneurial spirit, its endless on-the-road grind, its cutthroat competition and its take-no-prisoners attitude and emphatic 'kill' or 'die' vocabulary -- is a young persons' game.

Don't bother telling that to Paul Krassner.

The iconic American writer/comedian/activist, who turns 78 on Friday, the day he arrives in town to take part in the 2010 Winnipeg Comedy Festival, insists that humour, and the ability to create it, is nothing more or less than a state of mind.

'I have a young state of mind, because I'm constantly curious and constantly sensitive to contradictions,' says Krassner. 'So of course, I reject that stereotype about young comics, because I try to be as contemporary as possible. Age is just something chronological that you can't fight.'"

- Brad Oswald, Winnipeg Free Press

Paul Krassner Interview with Eric Cocks
Mar 12, 2010

"In depth interview of writer, comedian and investigative satirist Paul Krassner on Connections on WPKN with Eric Cocks. Stand up comedian, founder of The Realist Magazine and co-founder of The Yippies, Paul gives an inside view on everything from the early days of the counter-culture to current writings and observations of these strange times. From playing the violin at Carnegie Hall at age 6 to using music as inspiration for writing with a rock and roll renegade attitude."

- Eric Cocks, WPKN

Paul Krassner as Our "Satirist-Laureate"
Nov 23, 2009

"It's time our national government at last enshrines its most critical artistic need, that of "Satirist-Laureate." The first nod must go to the man who has pioneered the idiom in modern America---Paul Krassner.

Since the days of Lenny Bruce, Krassner (a good friend, but no relation) has been poking brilliant fun at every sacred horse’s ass in American politics and culture.

He also remains our cutting edge critic on censorship and its pornographic twin. His two recent books slash to the core of the utter hypocrisy of the government sticking its nose in what we read and write, think and smoke."

- Harvey Wasserman, Daily Kos

The Nation

"[Krassner] uses the concept of 'obscenity' as a moral framing device to drive a series of free-form observations on war, drugs, sex, entertainment culture and connections between the past and the present. Krassner is not only concerned with identifying what is not obscene (in his view, pretty much anything to do with sex); he crafts a definition that instead encompasses greed, dishonesty, cruelty and murder. . . . Throughout the book Krassner retains the affect of a hip elder statesman with a perpetual twinkle in his eye, reminding his readers that politics without humor is boring and that laughter without a moral compass is lame."
— Danny Goldberg

Salt Lake Underground Magazine

"Krassner very blatantly points out how, through a carefully staged smoke and mirror routine, our priorities are being manipulated by politicians, media, and the filthy rich. . . . Ignore anything that is actually newsworthy and focus on Bono dropping the F bomb on TV or Janet Jackson's nip slip during the super bowl. What is truly obscene: all content that we enjoy as entertainment being controlled by a very small group of wealthy businessmen, or Tommy Chong selling a few bongs over state lines?"
—Ben Trentelman

Paul Krassner on the Media Squat
Sep 21, 2009

" Paul Krassner is our special guest in the Media Squat this week. He'll be speaking with host Douglas Rushkoff about everything from the Manson murders to 9-11, Lenny Bruce to Stephen Colbert, and investigative satire to helping people break free of mind control. This is an episode not to be missed."

- Douglas Rushkoff, WFMU

Paul Krassner on WorldStreams
Sep 17, 2009

"Paul Krassner is an author, journalist, stand-up comedian, and the founder, editor and a frequent contributor to the free thought magazine The Realist, first published in 1958. Krassner became a key figure in the counterculture of the 1960s... Krassner remains a prolific writer and lecturer. He has recently published two books, Who's to Say What's Obscene: Politics, Culture & Comedy in America Today and In Praise of Indecency: Dispatches From the Valley of Porn."

- Said & Dari, WorldStreams

A Raving Unconfined Nut
Sep 15, 2009

"[Paul Krassner's] new collection of essays is Who's To Say What's Obscene?: Politics, Culture and Comedy In America Today (City Lights Books) and it's a hoot, covering The War on (Some) Drugs, the counterculture (which Paul helped kick-start -- Google "Krassner The Realist" and "Yippies"), dead icons/friends like Carlin and Vonnegut, censorship and his own take on the history of satire. Krassner will read excerpts and sign books tonight, so get your Googling done, get your ass to Skylight, and join the conspiracy to mock."

- Michael Simmons, LA Weekly

The Playboy Nightstand

"Krassner lives in a world where Truth and Satire are swingers, changing partners so often you never know who belongs with whom. His latest collection of entertaining essays, which originally appeared in publications as diverse as High Times, The Nation, Adult Video NewsOnline and the Huffington Post (Arianna Huffington wrote the introduction), covers comedy, the drug war, the counterculture, dead icons and freedom. Don't miss the parts they left out of the Borat movie, the short history of racism in standup and the discussion of whether Moses might have been tripping when he parted the Red Sea."

Paul Krassner on the New Meaning of Obscenity
Aug 20, 2009

"Q. I haven't read the book yet, but what's with the title? Who is to say what’s obscene?
A. First of all, the original title was going to be 'We Have Ways of Making You Laugh' but it turns out there was a book that had been published with that same title. And it was a collection of cartoons all with a swastika theme, so I certainly didn’t want to be confused with that. And so my editor and I went back and forth and came up with this title because the concept of obscenity used to be associated just with pornography or profanity. But the word "obscene" has morphed into an adjective for other things that really do harm."

- Byron Perry, Zocalo Public Square

LSD as gateway drug
Aug 18, 2009

"I took my first acid trip in 1965 at Tim Leary's LSD research center in Millbrook, N.Y. He was supposed to be my guide, but he had gone off to India. Ram Dass (then Richard Alpert) was supposed to take his place, but he was involved in preparing to open at the Village Vanguard as a psychedelic comedian-philosopher. So my guide was Michael Hollingshead, the British rascal who had originally turned Leary on.

When I told my mother about taking LSD, she was quite concerned.

'It could lead to marijuana,' she warned."

- Paul Krassner, San Francisco Bay Guardian

On the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock
Aug 14, 2009

"Four decades ago, along with 499,999 others on a countercultural pilgrimage, I was headed for the Woodstock Festival of Music & Love. I was wearing my yellow leather fringe jacket for the first time. In one of the pockets there was a nice little stash of LSD. If you happen to be brand-name conscious, then you'll want to know that it was Owsley White Lightning..."

- Paul Krassner, Huffington Post

Eternal realist: Krassner reflects on lifetime of free thinking
Aug 30, 2009

"There are pieces of memorabilia reflecting his place in history. A program from his violin recital at Carnegie Hall when he was 6 years old is framed on a bathroom wall. He was reportedly the youngest performer in Carnegie history, but when the laughter he inadvertently evoked thrilled him more than the applause, his career was cast as the iconoclastic humorist he is today. For the past 56 years, Krassner has been a journalist who has occasionally crossed the line into the realm of social activism as a co-founder of the Yippies and member of the San Francisco-based Merry Pranksters.A painting in his office tells how that's worked out. It's a portrait of a clown behind bars with a sign around his neck that says, 'Incorrigible.'"

- Bruce Fessier, The Desert Sun

Book News

"For readers unfamiliar with Krassner, his credentials--author, journalist, editor, talk show guest--seem fairly safe. But combine those with his role as a co-founder of the Yippie movement, his membership in Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, and his X-rated standup comedy routine and those initial credentials sound downright dangerous. Krassner is a satirist and he uses that skill here with his irreverent takes on the hypocrisies and absurdities in politics, comedy, and other aspects of American life. Offensive or funny? It's a matter of taste."

Who's to Say What's Obscene? by Paul Krassner
Aug 10, 2009

"Janet Jackson's bare breast showing for .562 of a second on national TV at the Super Bowl halftime show? Don Imus—in reaction to the mostly black Rutgers University women's basketball championship win—saying: 'That’s some nappy-headed ho’s'? The events of 9/11? Tom Green? Borat? Hummers? Pornography? Disney-character-pornography? Krassner presents irony simply; because 'one person’s sense of humor is another person’s entrepreneurial outlook.'"

- Micah Ling, Book Punch

The Art of Rebellion
Aug 6, 2009

"Underground cartoonists of the '60s and ’70s knelt before two deities: Harvey Kurtzman and Paul Krassner. Kurtzman you know about. Krassner was the editor and publisher of The Realist, considered the first underground-­press periodical, a product of the Beat and anti-McCarthy movements. While The Realist was rather conventionally designed compared with the psychedelic underground newspapers that began springing up during the mid- to late ’60s, it was more ribald and raucous than anything in print — scandalous, borderline libelous and even pornographic. It was the next evolutionary step in counterculture satire after Mad. And it is cited by Jay Lynch, an underground cartoonist known for the strip 'Nard ’n Pat,' in the introduction to James Danky and Denis Kitchen’s Underground Classics: The Transformation of Comics Into Comix (Abrams ComicArts/Chazen Museum of Art, $29.95). As Lynch says, The Realist bitingly attacked 'the sham and hypocrisy of society at large' and was one of a few magazines that contributed to the rise of the underground comix sensibility."

- Steven Heller, New York Times

My Acid Trip with Squeaky Fromme
Aug 6, 2009

"This month, Lynette 'Squeaky' Fromme, a member of the Charles Manson family, is scheduled to be released on parole from a federal prison in Texas after serving 34 years behind bars for the attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford in 1975. Squeaky did not participate in the Tate/LaBianca killings, which I began investigating in 1971.

Manson was on Death Row -- before capital punishment was repealed (and later reinstated, but not retroactively) in California -- so I was unable to meet with him. Reporters had to settle for an interview with any prisoner awaiting the gas chamber, and it was unlikely that Charlie would be selected at random for me . . .

Paul Krassner's latest book is Who's to Say What's Obscene: Politics, Culture & Comedy in America Today, with a foreword by Arianna Huffington, available at paulkrassner.com."

- Paul Krassner, Huffington Post

Paul Krassner's Unstoppable Indecency
Aug 6, 2009

"Even the word 'indecent' seemed quaint to me; Paul Krassner's (paulkrassner.com, NSFW) newest book 'In Praise of Indecency' sat on my desk for a good long while before I cracked the spine. After years of being the foremost girl porn blogger in the Internet village (see Fleshbot.com circa 2005-09, if you dare) I just couldn't imagine that there would be anything shocking, relevant to my generation, or truly indecent between the covers.

I was delightfully wrong, and completely entertained. "

- Violet Blue, SF Gate

The Mystery Behind the Manson Murders
Aug 10, 2009

"'Charles Manson was never a hippie. His real family included con artists, pimps, drug dealers, thieves, muggers, rapists and murderers. He had known only power relationships in an army of control junkies. Manson was America's Frankenstein monster, a logical product of the prison system -- racist, paranoid, violent -- even if hippie astrologers thought that his fate had been predetermined because he was a triple Scorpio.

In the course of my research, I met Preston Guillory, a former deputy sheriff at the Malibu Sheriff's Department, which aided the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department in the original raid of the Spahn Ranch. Guillory had participated in that raid, and I interviewed him at an apartment in San Francisco.'

The above is excerpted from my 1993 autobiography, Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counterculture. Simon & Schuster has since reverted all rights back to me, and an expanded edition will soon be published online by New World Digital."

- Paul Krassner, Huffington Post

Paul Krassner: Who's To Say What’s Obscene?
Aug 3, 2009

"Satirist, counter culture icon and all around iconoclast, Paul Krassner, author of the new collection, Who's to Say What’s Obscene?: Politics, Culture, and Comedy in America Today. Topics include the definition of obscenity in today’s America, the Obama presidency and what it means for political satire, Jon Stewart and The Daily Show’s influence on younger people, the state of the 'underground press' today and a lot more. Recorded at Mahalo Studios, special thanks to Jason Calacanis and Alex Miller."

- Bradley Novicoff and Tara McGinley, Dangerous Minds

Paul Krassner
Aug 3, 2009

Who can be blamed for buying into, for aspiring to the dreams and goods offered up in massive spoonfuls in our brave new 24/7 world? . . .

There are a few that come to mind—Lenny Bruce, I.F. Stone, Barbara Ehrenreich, Mike Royko, Studs Terkel, Eduardo Galeano, Gore Vidal, Howard Zinn—and Paul Krassner. Had he only published his gadfly magazine The Realist, he would be worthy of high praise and attention, but Krassner continues to ply his subversion in books and other places.

Here's the immortal Kurt Vonnegut on Krassner:

'I told Krassner one time that his writings made me hopeful.  He found this an odd compliment to offer a satirist. I explained that he made supposedly serious matters seem ridiculous, and that this inspired many of his readers to decide for themselves what was ridiculous and what was not. Knowing that there were people doing that, better late than never, made me optimistic.'"

- Robert Birnbaum, identity theory

In Praise of Indecency: Paul Krassner Interviewed by Carol Queen
Jul 27, 2009

"A lot's been said and written about Paul Krassner since he founded the legendary underground newspaper The Realist in 1958. People Weekly crowned him 'the father of the underground press.' (He demanded a blood test.) The FBI, writing anonymously to Life Magazine, called him 'a raving, unconfined nut.' Groucho Marx once predicted that in time, Krassner would be 'the only live Lenny Bruce.'

. . . Krassner's books include his autobiography, Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut and One Hand Jerking, a collection of essays. He's just published two more: Who's to Say What's Obscene? and In Praise of Indecency. Carol Queen interviewed him at the Center for Sex and Culture this month."

- Carol Queen, Carnal San Francisco


"Krassner writes on anything that catches his eye: the war on drugs, stand-up comedy, Don Imus, to mention just three topics. . . . The collection also includes a number of touching memorials to cultural icons Krassner has known, including Allen Ginsberg, George Carlin, Kurt Vonnegut, and Robert Anton Wilson." -- Jack Helbig

Button-pusher redefines obscene
Jul 16, 2009

"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."
- Justin Berton, SF Gate

Behind the Fake Report of Jeff Goldblum's Death
Jul 9, 2009

"The logo for 'Fake a Wish -- Celeb Fake News Generator' is a solid red circle with the warning, 'Bullshit.' I'm instructed to 'Enter a celebrity name to see a list of fake news items about them'. I type 'Jeff Goldblum,' only to find out there are three other ways he died: 'Actor Jeff Goldblum hospitalized after traffic altercation.' 'Luxury yacht sinks off coast of Tropez, France. Jeff Goldblum reported missing.' 'Jeff Goldblum presumed dead in private plane crash.'

Plus there's a link to 'Back By Popular Demand! Jeff Goldblum is new Masturbation World Champion!'

...The roster of fake death reports that have gone megaviral includes Tom Hanks (2006) and Tom Cruise (2008); both fell to their death in New Zealand. Hoover has never been threatened with a libel suit, except for one 'cease and desist' request, from Michael Vick for a report about his coming out of the closet. Vick even went on live TV in Atlanta to deny rumors that he's gay, claiming defamation of character. That kind of homophobia, coming from a man who was convicted of organizing vicious dog fights, is mighty ludicrous."

- Paul Krassner, The Huffington Post

Street Fighting Men
Jul 1, 2009

"And then there is subversive satirist and gadfly (or as he describes himself, investigative satirist) Paul Krassner, author of Who's to Say What's Obscene: Politics, Culture, and Comedy in America Today .

...Here's Kurt Vonnegut on Krassner:

'…With the Vietnam War going on, and with its critics discounted and scorned by the government and the mass media, Krassner put on sale a red, white and blue poster that said FUCK COMMUNISM.

At the beginning of the 1960s, FUCK was believed to be so full of bad magic as to be unprintable. In the most humanely influential American novel of this half century, The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield, it will be remembered, was shocked to see that word on a subway station wall. He wondered what seeing it might do to the mind of a little kid. COMMUNISM was to millions the name of the most loathsome evil imaginable. To call an American a communist was like calling somebody a Jew in Nazi Germany. By having FUCK and COMMUNISM fight it out in a single sentence, Krassner wasn’t merely being funny as heck. He was demonstrating how preposterous it was for so many people to be responding to both words with such cockamamie Pavlovian fear and alarm.'"
- Robert Birnbaum, The Morning News

The Bohemian

"All of the essays in Krassner's new book have been published before--in High Times, The Huffington Post, The Nation and The L.A. Weekly--but they all read as though they were written yesterday. That's because Krassner is always shocking, always provocative and for all his shenanigans, amazingly serious about the pornography of power and the obscenity of war (as well as Somali pirates and piracy on the web)." —Jonah Raskin

Yippie Founder Paul Krassner still Testing Limits
Jun 22, 2009

"Still an unabashed political radical, as well as a prolific writer, Krassner is the author of more than a dozen books. The most recent, 'Who's to Say What's Obscene: Politics, Culture and Comedy in America Today,' comes out in July.

It takes a skewering look at American politics and morals, speaking generally in favor of such subjects as pornography and recreational drug use and dismissing the torture of prisoners of war as something that is truly obscene. But it goes about it in such a lighthearted fashion as to rarely seem preachy."

- John Rogers, Associated Press

Should Comedy be Politically Correct?
Jun 16, 2009

"Arnold Schwarzennegger announced his candidacy for governor on the Tonight Show. John Edwards announced his candidacy for president on The Daily Show. And now Sarah Palin has in effect announced her candidacy for president in 2012 by denouncing Late Show host David Letterman for a joke about her daughter--the wrong, younger daughter, it turned out--being knocked up by baseball star Alex Rodriguez."

- Paul Krassner, The Huffington Post

Here's What Paul Krassner had to Say
Jun 11, 2009

"Paul Krassner is not only a prolific writer and a demanding intellect, he's an investigative satirist bent on bending the social norm. After reading his book, In Praise of Indecency, I felt I needed to discover if this guy is for real or not. And judging by his responses, I'd say with a sober heart and mind that he is truly a genuine hero of shock-and-awe journalism. He’s the real deal. He’s the protestor at the rally, and the voice on the opposite side of the political spectrum you can’t ever silence."

- Tony R. Rodriguez, East Bay Literary Examiner

A Response to "Why Did Jon Stewart Apologize"
May 8, 2009
"In a recent blog on HuffPost, Dennis Perrin criticized Jon Stewart for apologizing the day after he agreed with a guest that President Harry Truman was a war criminal. He wrote that "Stewart did what well-regarded mainstream entertainers do when expressing an unpopular opinion. He groveled for forgiveness....When an American 'satirist' apologizes for stating the truth, you can really appreciate 'free expression' in a corporate-owned culture.' Since Perrin stated that, 'before The Daily Show, Stewart was not known in a Paul Krassner/Barry Crimmins/Whitney Brown way,' I feel especially compelled to disagree with his premise." - Paul Krassner, huffingtonpost.com

Publisher's Weekly

"Krassner (Confessions of a Raving Unconfined Nut), publisher of the Realist magazine, ruminates on American social and political hypocrisy in these essays that drift between current events and the heyday of the 1960s counterculture when the author dropped acid with the Merry Pranksters and palled around with Abbie Hoffman. Krassner weighs in on the last election cycle, the decriminalization of marijuana, and racism, with a stated (and largely achieved) goal of illuminating the gulf between what society says and what it does."

Comics: Coincidence or Conspiracy?
May 2, 2009
"Gather 'round, kiddies, Uncle Paul is going to read the funny papers for you. Come see how the economic disaster is even trickling its way down not only to syndicated comic strips but also to the comic strip characters themselves." - Paul Krassner, The Huffington Post

Paul Krassner: What's Funny After 9/11?
Jan 12, 2009

"Paul Krassner should be declared a national treasure. The title of his 1993 autobiography, Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut was quoted from a letter about him from the FBI to Life magazine. In 1958, he founded the legendary underground newspaper The Realist, which satirized the government and social establishment as well as some of the radical elements which were pitted against them. It was often difficult to tell which articles were real and which were fiction. Krassner was a founding member of the Youth International Party (aka the 'Yippies') which used satire and humor to make political statements throughout the late 1960s and early '70s."

- Radio Misterioso

Milk and Twinkies
Dec 19, 2008

"In a recent Los Angeles Times Op-Ed piece about San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, Josh Getlin perpetuated a myth when he wrote that Dan White 'shot the mayor four times, twice in the head as he lay on the floor of his private back office. Standing astride the body, he reloaded his .38-caliber revolver and then raced down a long hallway toward the supervisors chambers. There he demanded to meet with [Harvey] Milk...'"

- Paul Krassner, Counterpunch

In the Jester's Court: Paul Krassner on the Virtues of Irreverence, Indecency, and Illegal Drugs
Feb 1, 2009

"Paul Krassner has been spreading his witty, sometimes snide, and often political brand of humor since the late 1950s. His publication the Realist was the underground journal of the counterculture during the sixties and seventies, breaking political stories and covering topics that were taboo for the mainstream press. Krassner became known for interweaving current events, social criticism, and satire in a manner not previously seen in print."

- David Kupfer, The Sun

The No Show
Feb 28, 2009

"Egg Cream

Steve Post, former fat kid, reveals the secret of the perfect egg cream and the ingredients of the Hoboken in his bid to be picked up by the cooking channel. Paul Krassner joins him to talk about Paul's interview with swimmer and famous bong-hitter, Michael Phelps, and a high time is had by all. Steve discovers yet more instances of interspecies marriage, and we say goodbye to New Orleans singer-guitarist, Snooks Eaglin."

Paul Krassner's interview starts at minute 27:26.


Paul Krassner Advice for Bloggers
Mar 9, 2009

"J gave me a the February 2009 copy of Sun magazine last night insisting that I should know about it. This morning (I need to say it is really hot outside at 8am. In Chiang Mai it cools down at night. In Hanoi it was mostly in the 60's and low 70s (16˚-22˚ C. But it's HOT here.)I read the interview of Paul Krassner, who I’m vaguely familiar with, and who is described in Sun as having

been spreading his witty, sometimes snide, and often political brand of humor since the late 1950’s.

He was a violin prodigy who played at Carnegie Hall at 6 and wrote for the Steve Allen show and Mad magazine and edited Lenny Bruce’s autobiography among other things like writing the Realist."

- What Do I Know?

Behind the Infamous Twinkie Defense
Dec 4, 2008

"In a recent Los Angeles Times Op-Ed piece about San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, Josh Getlin perpetuated a myth when he wrote that Dan White 'shot the mayor four times, twice in the head as he lay on the floor of his private back office. Standing astride the body, he reloaded his .38-caliber revolver and then raced down a long hallway toward the supervisors chambers. There he demanded to meet with [Harvey] Milk...'

In 1979, I covered White's trial for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. "

- Paul Krassner, The Huffington Post

Behind "the Twinkie Defense"
Nov 19, 2008
"This month marks the 30th anniversary of the assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, who wanted to decriminalize marijuana, and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay individual to be elected to public office in America. November also marks the release of a film about the case titled Milk. Although a former policeman, homophobic Dan White, had confessed to the murders, he pleaded not guilty. I covered his trial for the Bay Guardian." - Paul Krassner, SF Bay Guardian