Dave Barry talks orangutans, billionaires

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 11:28 AM

Zinta Lundborg

NEW YORK — Dave Barry’s latest novel, “Insane City,” features mad hookers, an orangutan named Trevor, Russian gangsters, billionaires dressed as flamingoes and a guru from New Jersey who discovered “how much easier it was to get laid if you were a holy man.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and author of 30 books, Barry says his most enduring achievement is establishing September 19 as International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Barry spoke to me by phone from his home in Miami.

Lundborg: Do you live in Florida just so you can make fun of it?

Barry: It’s a very good reason if you are a humor writer since it’s a never-ending source of material. I appreciate the residents of Florida. They work hard: Just when you think they have come up with every possible way to amuse you, they figure out something even newer.

Lundborg: There are a couple of big shot financiers in your book. One has a $380,000 watch he can barely control.

Barry: Have you seen those watches? They’re advertised in the New York Times with 48 dials. I don’t know what we need a watch like that for except to say: Look how much extra money I have!

Lundborg: There’s also Wendell Corliss, an even richer guy, with “all the personal charm of an iguana,” who runs the Transglobal Financial Capital Funding Group.

Barry: Wendell grows. Once he accidentally ingests medical marijuana and is exposed to Marty, who has absolutely no redeeming economic value at all, Wendell starts to see another side of the world and likes it.

Lundborg: You have a lot of fun with this billionaire who gets the munchies.

Barry: He has never had the munchies in his life, but Wendell is a ruthless man used to getting things done. When he finds out the best pizza place around doesn’t deliver, he swings into action and purchases it right there on the beach for cash.

Lundborg: But he doesn’t get any pizza so he’s still hungry.

Barry: Wendell and Marty decide Chinese would be a good idea. They have to negotiate to buy the Majestic Rooster, which is even trickier, because this requires a call to the president of China.

The places are renamed Majestic Transglobal Rooster and Stan’s Transglobal Pizza of Key Biscayne.

Lundborg: The two financiers belong to the Group of Eleven, an association so exclusive Warren Buffett was deemed too nouveau and Donald Trump’s letters were returned unopened. But the trick here is that all they want is to get into the Group of Six.

Barry: It’s the one thing money can’t buy.

Lundborg: A lot of humor is generated by the big destination wedding central to your novel. What’s happened to marriage?

Barry: The wedding-industrial complex. Brides get swept up in this world of obsession — it has to be your perfect day.

Lundborg: As you say, the bride is coordinating the Normandy invasion while the groom is remembering to zip up his fly.

Barry: I’m surprised the groom even gets invited to some of these weddings, he’s become such a minor appendage.

Lundborg: Why did you decide to include an orangutan?

Barry: They are very weird animals but they look very soulful. I originally intended for the orangutan to appear only in one scene, but I liked him so much, he just sort of stuck around and became not only kind of an action hero, but also a love interest.

Lundborg: Aside from your year-end roundup, you don’t do much political satire anymore. Why not?

Barry: I went to both conventions last year and wrote columns daily from there. Those two weeks gave me my fill. It’s so crazy now. It’s become purely sports — politics and sports are the same thing now.

There is just nothing really meaningful happening and there are no personalities anymore. It’s all point scoring, so I can only take so much of it.

I just want to be in the world where I really live, where nobody cares about that stuff.

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