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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Goodbye Art

Art Buchwald died today at 81, in a way I'm sure most of us hope we can go, on our own terms. Art was given weeks to live last February when he decided against dialysis for kidney failure, and instead went home, then to a hospice. Instead, he held out for a year, and even wrote a book about the experience.

According to friends he had a last wish, "I just don't want to die the same day Castro dies", which kind of sums up the way Art thought.

Art was an icon to me. Growing up I learned about comedy from guys like Steve Martin, George Carlin, Freddy Prinz and the like. But I learned about humor from guys like Art Buchwald, and Alan King, who knew the difference between comedy and humor.

As a old teenager and a young adult, I read many of Art's books and a lot of his columns. He lead me to Dave Barry and P.J. O'Rourke, people who were humorists, not really comedians. They all did something similar, taught me to look at many serious things from the lighter side, and I think that ability has served me well over the years.

If you get a chance, go to the library (that big building full of books and free internet access) and check out a few of Art's books, especially his earlier political commentary, which puts even things like Watergate and Viet Nam in proper perspective.

UPDATE: Art's final column, which he wrote before he died, is now up on the Chicago Tribune website (registration required)

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