When Paul Krassner was referred to as the “father of the Yippie (Youth International Party) movement," his response was, “I demand a paternity test!” That statement was emblematic of Krassner’s subversive wit, which was on display in The Realist, a magazine Krassner founded, edited, and published off and on from 1958 till 2001.
I graduated from Mad to The Realist during my freshman year at Boston University. In the summer of 1968, I was living in New York City and looked up “Realist” in the Manhattan phone book (remember those things?). Krassner answered the phone, and I had a congenial chat with him after telling him how much I liked his publication. (I thought subsequently that I should have asked him for a job, but the mag was pretty much a one-man show.)
Krassner died on July 21 in Southern California after a turbulent and multifaceted career. Beyond his tenure at The Realist, he was a freelance writer, stand-up comic, author of several books, and—briefly—publisher of Hustler magazine after that publication’s founder, Larry Flynt, was shot and paralyzed.
In 1967, Krassner appeared as a guest on the Joe Pyne Show. (Pyne was a screaming reactionary host who presaged Morton Downey, Jr., Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage, among others.) Pyne was a heavy smoker and had lost a leg to cancer; so he wore a prosthetic. Krassner had had bad acne as a kid and his faced was scarred. Pyne started to ridicule his appearance. Krassner responded with something like: “Joe, I came on your show to discuss issues, but you’re making fun of my looks. I don’t think that’s very nice. Now, I’m not asking you if you remove your wooden leg at night before you make love to your wife.”
Pyne deserved it.
Krassner was a much-needed antidote to much of the publication pabulum foisted off on the public.
And speaking of Mad, after 67 years of existence, it is ceasing publication later this year.