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Amazing Stories

Dave Barry returns with a blend of familiar satiric targets and a wry look at aging.

By Cristina Merrill / Jester correspondent

Dave Barry is at it again in “I'll Mature When I'm Dead: Dave Barry's Amazing Tales of Adulthood.” In his latest work, Barry discusses and pokes fun at a variety of topics ranging from the decline of newspapers to the bizarre plot points of the TV show “24” to his son’s marriage.  Barry’s latest work is filled with fresh material, but he also revisits the old and familiar in chapters such as “Tips for Visiting Miami” and “Dog Ownership for Beginners.” It is disappointing to see Barry re-cover old ground, but he redeems himself through superb new material. 

To say that much has happened to Barry over the past few years is an understatement. For one thing, he has experienced two medical procedures that cause great fear to the most hardened patient: a vasectomy and a colonoscopy. Barry’s colonoscopy chapter is a reprint, easy to forgive as it stresses the importance of getting one. But the vasectomy chapter “The Full Coward Package” is new, one in which Barry repeatedly uses scary-looking typeface to emphasize the fact that, in a vasectomy, “they cut a hole in your scrotum.”

Before this vasectomy, Barry and his wife, Michelle Kaufman, had a daughter, Sophie, back in 2000, which means that he has been experiencing the joys, complexities and obligations of raising a girl. In this spirit, he devotes an entire chapter to the subject of dance recitals. In the chapter’s first page, he claims that if a man had to choose between having his prostate examined by a scorpion and attending a dance recital, the man will choose the scorpion. He writes, “Yes, he knows it will be unpleasant. But he also knows that eventually it will end.”  The best point Barry makes concerns the ridiculous amount of makeup worn by young dancers. “Your daughter will also need makeup, as specified by strict written dance-studio guidelines, which require that, because these are young girls with flawless skin, they must wear a sufficient quantity of cosmetic products to cover a regulation volleyball court, or, to put it another way, Cher.”

Another major event in Barry’s life is the marriage of his son, Rob, frequently mentioned throughout Barry’s work. Readers familiar with Barry will delight in this final chapter of the book. While the chapter explores the challenges in wedding planning, particularly planning a wedding in New York City with its strong unions, there are several moments that offer rare glimpses into Barry’s serious and sentimental side. Barry is proud, humorous, and unapologetically cheesy when he describes the exchange of vows. He writes, “When he told her, with pure and simple eloquence, how much he loved her, his voice broke, and every woman watching went aww, and Laura’s eyes shone like moonlight on a mountain lake.”

It would seem that Barry’s latest book would only consist of fresh material, considering all his new experiences. But Barry plays it safe by revisiting familiar subjects and even paraphrases old jokes. He once compared promoting a book to being a prostitute, only that promoting a book had less dignity. In the chapter “My Hollywood Career: The Big Dumpster,” he does something similar when describing his experience pitching an idea to movie executives. He writes, “‘Pitching’ is a Hollywood term for ‘trying to sell your project by acting like a low-cost prostitute, only with fewer scruples.’” The chapter “Dog Ownership for Beginners” was unnecessary for the most part, as Barry has visited the subject of dogs and dog ownership several times in his column days (“Earning a Collie Degree,” “The Hidden Life of Dogs,” and “A Watchdog Never Drops His Guard -- Except for Dessert” to name a few).

Despite this, it is easy to forgive Barry for the repetition. His new material is just too good to hold a grudge, especially when he deals with some of today’s pop culture phenomena. In a riotously funny chapter entitled “24: The Ultimate Script,” he makes fun of the hit TV show and the neuroses of its leading character, Jack Bauer, who is concerned about a “vaguely Middle Eastern terrorist organization” that has acquired a “proton defrackulator.” In a separate chapter entitled “Fangs of Endearment: A Vampire Novel,” Barry pokes fun at the characters of the “Twilight” series and, using different names, draws on the infamous love triangle between a human girl, a vampire and a werewolf. Barry writes, “I’m in love with him, too, but not as much as I am with Phil, who if all goes well is going to make me a vampire soon so we can spend all eternity being gorgeous and sensitive and sucking on bears together. I long for that day, but I hate knowing that I am hurting Stewart so badly by being so attractive to him without trying to or consciously realizing that I am.” 

The mix of topics makes Barry’s latest work a worthy read. His revisiting of the old and familiar is a bit disappointing, considering all the new experiences he’s had over the past few years, but overall, “I’ll Mature When I’m Dead” is a refreshing work that will appease hard-core Barry fans. 




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