In 1988, humorist Dave Barry won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his weekly Miami Herald column that celebrated how terrible everything is in politics. Since retiring his column in 2005, Barry, now 69, has gone on to write books, both fiction and nonfiction, including last year’s Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster). He has also been known to play in a band with Stephen King. A cheerful, equal-opportunity political critic from Florida, Barry has attended every convention since 1984 and even made satirical bids for the White House in 2000 and 2004. When PLAYBOY spotted Barry in the halls of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, we couldn’t help but subject him to some questions about all the surrounding hullabaloo.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen so far in Cleveland?
There’s this phenomenon here with the bands being so good, they get Republican delegates to make dance-like motions. I’ve been watching Republican delegates attempt to dance since 1984 and I’ve always found it interesting. It’s a wonderful process. They’re getting better.
Who have you found more amusing this election cycle—Republicans or Democrats?
I think Republicans are more entertaining. They wear more hats—weird hats—and they’re nominating Donald Trump. That requires a sense of humor. I’m assuming this is a prank, right?
Did you ever doubt that the Republican Party would nominate Donald Trump?
[Laughs] I thought in the end they’d say, “Are you kidding? We’re crazy, but not that crazy.” But they were going to have to nominate him. Otherwise they would have wasted all this money on signage.
I assume you won’t be voting for either Trump or Hillary Clinton.
Trump is certainly, beyond question, the weirdest individual that ever got close to being president of the United States. I’m sorry, but I can’t vote for him, and I can’t bring myself to vote for Clinton, so I’m probably going to vote for the Libertarian candidate. But Clinton is probably going to win—and I think a lot of the people who vote for Trump secretly want her to win.
What are your thoughts on the riots?
I went to watch the street protests early in the convention and they’re like every other street protest I’ve seen. These protesters think they’re being edgy, but if you put a different sign in their hand and give them a different chant, they’re the same people who have been out there for 30 years. I assume after a while they grow older and get mortgages and jobs and credit cards and have kids, and their kids go out and start calling for the revolution and killing of the pigs, but it doesn’t seem to have changed. The most traditional, kooky behavior you see at the convention is from the street protesters. Maybe they seem threatening to somebody, but I don’t see it that way.
What is one notable thing from a past Republican National Convention that happened to you?
I once got into one of those parties that you try to get into with a group of cartoonists. Once you’re in, you realize it’s just kind of people standing around being bored. So we got out a table—there was a low platform in one of the rooms—and we formed a VIP area. We put orange cones around it and said nobody could come in the VIP area with us. It immediately became something that everybody wanted to do. It was a herd instinct. People want to be in the VIP area, even if it’s just cartoonists and me up there. Soon it was packed. The highlight came when Dick Armey, who was then a congressman, got on the platform. Then everybody wanted to be up there.
Conventions, really, are all exactly the same. I know this year they’re nominating Trump, so that seems to make a difference, but it feels the same. There’s red, white and blue. There’s a band playing. There’s people talking, but nobody’s listening to the person talking. I keep waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever does. Everybody’s wandering around. In that sense, this year’s is like every other convention I’ve been to. I’ve never understood the point of it. You can do the whole thing in 11 minutes.