Paul Krassner (born April 9, 1932) is an American author, journalist, comedian, and the founder, editor and a frequent contributor to the freethought magazine The Realist, first published in 1958. Krassner became a key figure in the counterculture of the 1960s as a member of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and a founding member of the Yippies.
Krassner was a child violin prodigy and was the youngest person ever to play Carnegie Hall, in 1939 at age six. His parents were Jewish, but Krassner is firmly secular, considering religion "organised superstition." He majored in journalism at Baruch College (then a branch of the City College of New York) and began performing as a comedian under the name Paul Maul. He recalled:
- While in college, I started working for an anti-censorship paper, The Independent. After I left college I started working there full time. So, I never had a normal job where I had to be interviewed and wear a suit and tie. I became their managing editor and also did freelance stuff for Mad magazine. But Mad was aimed at a teenage audience, and there was no satirical magazine for adults. So it was a kind of organic evolution toward The Realist, which was essentially a combination of satire and alternative journalism.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was active in politically edged humor and satire. Krassner was a founder of the Youth International Party (Yippies) in 1967 and a member of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, famous for prankster activism. He was a close protégé of the controversial comedian Lenny Bruce, and the editor of Bruce's autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People. With the encouragement of Bruce, Krassner started to perform standup comedy in 1961 at the Village Gate in New York.
In 1963, he created what Kurt Vonnegut described as "a miracle of compressed intelligence nearly as admirable for potent simplicity, in my opinion, as Einstein's e=mc2." Vonnegut explained: "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. [...] 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."
In 1971, five years after Lenny Bruce's death, Groucho Marx said, "I predict that in time Paul Krassner will wind up as the only live Lenny Bruce."
The Realist was published on a fairly regular schedule during the 1960s, then on an irregular schedule after the early 1970s. In 1966, Krassner published The Realist's controversial "Disneyland Memorial Orgy" poster, illustrated by Wally Wood, and he recently made this famed black-and-white poster available in a digital color version. The Realist also distributed a red, white and blue Cold War bumper sticker that read "Fuck Communism."
Krassner's most notorious satire was the article "The Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book", which followed the censorship of William Manchester's book on the Kennedy assassination, The Death of a President. At the climax of the grotesque-genre short-story, Lyndon B. Johnson is described as having sexually penetrated the bullet-hole wound in the throat of John F. Kennedy's corpse. According to Elliot Feldman, "Some members of the mainstream press and other Washington political wonks, including Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, actually believed this incident to be true." In a 1995 interview for the magazine Adbusters, Krassner commented: "People across the country believed – if only for a moment – that an act of presidential necrophilia had taken place. It worked because Jackie Kennedy had created so much curiosity by censoring the book she authorized – William Manchester's 'The Death Of A President' – because what I wrote was a metaphorical truth about LBJ's personality presented in a literary context, and because the imagery was so shocking, it broke through the notion that the war in Vietnam was being conducted by sane men."
In 1966, he reprinted in The Realist an excerpt from the academic journal the Journal of the American Medical Association, but presenting it as original material. The article dealt with drinking glasses, tennis balls and other foreign bodies found in patients' rectums. Some accused him of having a perverted mind, and a subscriber wrote "I found the article thoroughly repellent. I trust you know what you can do with your magazine."
Krassner revived The Realist as a much smaller newsletter during the mid-1980s when material from the magazine was collected in The Best of the Realist: The 60's Most Outrageously Irreverent Magazine (Running Press, 1985). The final issue of The Realist was #146 (Spring, 2001).
Krassner remains a prolific writer. In 1971 he published a collection of his favourite works for The Realist, as How A Satirical Editor Became A Yippie Conspirator In Ten Easy Years. In 1981 he published the satirical story Tales of Tongue Fu, in which the hilarious misadventures of the Japanese-American man Tongue Fu are mixed with a wicked social commentary. In 1994, he published his autobiography Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in Counter-Culture. In July 2009, City Lights Publishers released Who's to Say What's Obscene?, a collection of satirical essays that explore contemporary comedy and obscenity in politics and culture.
He published three collections of drug stories. The first collection, Pot Stories for the Soul (1999), is from other authors and is about marijuana. Psychedelic Trips for the Mind (2001), is written by Krassner himself and collects stories on LSD. The third, Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs (2004), is by Krassner too, and deals with magic mushrooms, ecstasy, peyote, mescaline, THC, opium, cocaine, ayahuasca, belladonna, ketamine, PCP, STP, "toad slime," and more.
In 1962 Paul published an anonymous interview with Dr Robert Spencer detailing his involvement in illegal but safe abortions. Subsequent to the publication Paul received calls from women asking to be put in contact with the interviewee. Paul was later subpoenaed to appear before grand juries investigating abortion crime.
In 1965 Paul contributed to the Free University of New York a lecture entitled "Why the New York Times is funnier than Mad Magazine". In 1968, Krassner signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.
In the 1960s, Krassner was a regular contributor to several men's magazines including Cavalier and Playboy. In 1971, Krassner worked as a weekend radio personality and disk jockey at San Francisco's ABC-FM radio affiliate, KSFX, (subsequently KGO-FM). Under the pseudonym "Rumpelforeskin", he satirized culture and politics while espousing his atheism. He was also a contributor to early issues of Mad magazine. He often appears as a stand-up comedian, and he was among those featured in the 2005 documentary The Aristocrats. Krassner also remains a prolific lecturer. He has been a frequent speaker at both the Starwood Festival and the WinterStar Symposium. In 1998 he was featured at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with Wavy Gravy during their exhibit entitled I Want to Take You Higher: The Psychedelic Era 1965–1969. Currently, he is a columnist for The Nation, AVN Online and High Times Magazine. He also is a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post and The Rag Blog.
Krassner is the only person to win awards from both Playboy magazine (for satire) and the Feminist Party Media Workshop (for journalism). He was the first living man to be inducted into the Counterculture Hall of Fame, which took place at the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. He received an American Civil Liberties Union Uppie (Upton Sinclair) Award for dedication to freedom of expression, and, according to the FBI files, he was described by the FBI as "a raving, unconfined nut." George Carlin commented: "The FBI was right, this man is dangerous – and funny; and necessary." In 2005 he received a Grammy nomination for Best Album Notes for his essay on the 6-CD package Lenny Bruce: Let the Buyer Beware.
Krassner was harshly criticized, along with many males on the Left, in Robin Morgan's classic feminist manifesto, "Goodbye to All That":
- "Goodbye to lovely "pro-Women's Liberationist" Paul Krassner, with all his astonished anger that women have lost their sense of humor "on this issue" and don't laugh any more at little funnies that degrade and hurt them: farewell to the memory of his "Instant Pussy" aerosol-can poster, to his column for the woman-hating men's magazine Cavalier, to his dream of a Rape-In against legislators' wives, to his Scapegoats and Realist Nuns and cute anecdotes about the little daughter he sees as often as any properly divorced Scarsdale middle-aged father; goodbye forever to the notion that a man is my brother who, like Paul, buys a prostitute for the night as a birthday gift for a male friend, or who, like Paul, reels off the names in alphabetical order of people in the women's movement he has fucked, reels off names in the best locker-room tradition—as proof that he's no sexist oppressor."
- 1981 – Tales of Tongue Fu (And/Or Press)
- 1994 – Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counter-Culture (Touchstone) ISBN 0-671-89843-4
- 2000 – Sex, Drugs, and the Twinkie Murders (Loompanics Unlimited) ISBN 1-55950-206-1
- 2005 – One Hand Jerking: Reports From an Investigative Satirist, Foreword by Harry Shearer, Introduction by Lewis Black (Seven Stories Press) ISBN 1-58322-696-6
Collections of drug stories
- 1999 – High Times Presents Paul Krassner's Pot Stories for the Soul. Various authors. Compiled by Krassner with a foreword by Ellison, Harlan (High Times) ISBN 1-893010-02-3
- 2001 – Paul Krassner's Psychedelic Trips for the Mind (High Times Press) ISBN 1-893010-07-4
- 2004 – Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs: From Toad Slime to Ecstasy (Ten Speed Press) ISBN 1-58008-581-4
Articles collections books
- 1971 – How a Satirical Editor Became a Yippie Conspirator in Ten Easy Years (Putnam)
- 1985 – The Best of the Realist: The 60's Most Outrageously Irreverent Magazine (Running Press) ISBN 0-89471-289-6
- 1996 – The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race: The Satirical Writings of Paul Krassner Introduction by Kurt Vonnegut (Seven Stories Press) ISBN 1-888363-44-4
- 2002 – Murder at the Conspiracy Convention: And Other American Absurdities introduced by George Carlin (Barricade Books, Inc.) ISBN 1-56980-231-9
- 2009 – Who's to Say What's Obscene? Politics, Culture and Comedy in America Today (City Lights Publishers) ISBN 978-0-87286-501-3
- Woody Allen Meets Tongue Fu January 11, 2008 (preface of the book Tales of Tongue Fu)
- Life Among the Neo-Pagans in The Nation, Aug. 29, 2005.
- The Blame Game in The Huffington Post, August 26, 2005.
- My Acid Trip with Groucho in High Times Magazine, February 1981
- Forty Years Later: Remembering the Summer of Love High Times June 21st, 2007
- The Nature of Protest: Then and Now High Times July 2nd, 2004
- Lenny & the Law, Together Again High Times June 10th, 2004
- Steve Earl: Sticking to His Principles High Times May 19, 2004
- The Trial of Vivian McPeak High Times February 13th, 2004
- The Witch Hunt Ain't Over Yet High Times December 24th, 2003
- 1999 – Paul Krassner's Impolite Interviews (Seven Stories Press) ISBN 1-888363-92-4
- 2004 – Sept. 23, WBAI 99.5 FM New York City, Radio Unnameable: host Bob Fast interviews Paul Krassner
- 2006 – RU Sirius Show #53 (7/17/2006), guest Paul Krassner (podcast, .mp3)
- 2006 – Pranks! 2 Interview with Paul Krassner
- 2006 – The Legacy of Timothy Leary High Times October 20th, 2006
- 2007 – Beatdom's Interview with Paul Krassner
- 2009 – In the Jester's Court: Paul Krassner On The Virtues Of Irreverence, Indecency, And Illegal Drugs by David Kupfer (Sun Magazine Jan. 2009)
- 2009 – In Praise of Indecency: Paul Krassner Interviewed by Carol Queen (CarnalNation, July 27 2009)
- 2010 – Interview With Paul Krassner from SexIs Magazine
- 2010–2011 – Thorne Dreyer's three Rag Radio interviews with Paul Krassner.
- 2011 – Interviewed by Marc Maron
- 2012 – "Paul Krassner is Still Smokin' at 80" Interview by Jonah Raskin, The Rag Blog, June 7, 2012
Stand-up comedy recordings:
- 1996 – We Have Ways of Making You Laugh (Mercury Records)
- 1997 – Brain Damage Control (Mercury Records)
- 1999 – Sex, Drugs and the Antichrist: Paul Krassner at MIT (Sheridan Square Entertainment)
- 2000 – Campaign In the Ass (Artemis Records)
- 2002 – Irony Lives (Artemis Records)
- 2004 – The Zen Bastard Rides Again (Artemis Records)
- 1972 – Dynamite Chicken
- 1983 – Cocaine Blues
- 1987 – The Wilton North Report (TV series)
- 1990 – Flashing on the Sixties: A Tribal Document
- 1998 – Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth
- 1999 – The Source
- 2003 – Maybe Logic: The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson
- 2005 – The Aristocrats
- 2006 – Gonzo Utopia
- 2006 – The U.S. vs. John Lennon
- 2006 – Darryl Henriques Is in Show Business
- 2008 – Sex: The Revolution (TV mini-series)
- 2008 – Looking for Lenny
- 2009 – Make 'Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America (PBS)
- Krassner, P.; Jacobsen, S.D. (15 August 2014). "Paul Krassner: Founder, Editor, & Contributor, The Realist". In-Sight (6.A).
- "Recital by Violin Pupils". New York Times. Jan 15, 1939
- Rosenbaum, Fred, Cosmopolitans: a Social and Cultural History of the Jews of the San Francisco Bay Area, University of California Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-520-25913-3.
- Brian A. Pace. ""An IMC Interview with Paul Krassner" by Brian A. Pace, 06.May.2004 14:05". Portland.indymedia.org. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- Krassner, P: Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in Counter-Culture, ISBN 0-671-89843-4
- Loompanics: Paul Krassner Archived July 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- Krassner bio at paulkrassner.com
- The original FUCK COMMUNISM banner
- Kurt Vonnegut's Foreword to Krassner's The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race
- The Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book – The Realist, Issue No. 74 – May 1967, cover page and page 18
- Paul Krassner and The Realist by Elliot Feldman
- Cat Simril Interviews Paul Krassner by CAT SIMRILin from "Adbusters Quarterly" Journal of the Mental Environment (Winter 1995 Vol. 3 No. 3)
- Here Lies Paul Krassner Reprinted from AIGA Journal of Graphic Design, vol.18, no. 2, 2000.
- BeatBooks: How A Satirical Editor Became A Yippie Conspirator In Ten Easy Years. (YIPPIE). KRASSNER, Paul
- "How the realist popped americas cherry". Nypress.com. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- Ferment Magazine by Roy lisker, accessed 16 July 2012
- “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
- Farber, David (1988). Chicago '68. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 25. ISBN 0226238008.
- Kates, Bill (1997). Best of the Fests: Starwood Festival in High Times, 1997
- Association for Consciousness Exploration. Paul Krassner
- Association for Consciousness Exploration. WinterStar Symposium 1998
- The Psychedelic Era Archived September 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- "''Double Agent'' by Paul Krassner". Emptymirrorbooks.com. 1972-06-21. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles (April 9, 2002). "Website". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- Reflections on the Art of the Put-on by Michael Dooley July 03, 2007
- Badley, Linda (1995). Film, Horror, and the Body Fantastic. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 106. ISBN 0313275238.
- Keetley, Dawn (2005-03-30). Public Women, Public Words: A Documentary History of American Feminism, Volume 3 (Google eBook). Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0742522369.
- Lord, Catherine (1 May 2010). "Wonder Waif Meets Super Neuter". October. 132: 135–163. doi:10.1162/octo.2010.132.1.135.
- Rodnitzky, Jerome L. (1999). Feminist Phoenix: The Rise and Fall of a Feminist Counterculture. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0275965759.
- Official website
- Paul Krassner at the Internet Movie Database
- Art Buchwald, Barry Crimmins, Paul Krassner, Kurt Vonnegut – Beating Around the Bush: An Evening of Satire recorded on 10/06/05 at The New York Society for Ethical Culture, 63 min., mp3 format
- The Realist Archive Project at ep.tc
- The Realist Website
- Hippie Museum Bio
- Excerpt from Confessions of a Raving Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counter-Culture
- 'Paul Krassner at 'Stop the Merchants of Death' Rally, St. Paul, MN, Oct. 2006, YouTube Video
- Articles by Paul Krassner at The Rag Blog