Paul Krassner
Paul Krassner

Paul Krassner
Paul Krassner (April 9, 1932 – July 21, 2019) was an American author, journalist, comedian, and the founder, editor and a frequent contributor to the

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American composer, musical educator, and parodist

Paul KrassnerPaul Krassner at City Lights Bookstore in 2009Born(1932-04-09)April 9, 1932
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.DiedJuly 21, 2019(2019-07-21) (aged 87)
Desert Hot Springs, CaliforniaOccupationauthor, journalist,

Paul Krassner[1] (April 9, 1932 – July 21, 2019) was an American author, journalist, comedian, and the founder, editor and a frequent contributor to the freethought magazine The Realist, first published in 1958. Krassner became a key figure in the counterculture of the 1960s as a member of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and a founding member of the Yippies. He died on July 21, 2019, in Desert Hot Springs, California.[2]

Contents Early life

Krassner was a child violin prodigy and was the youngest person ever to play Carnegie Hall, in 1939 at age six.[3] His parents were Jewish,[4][5] but Krassner is firmly secular, considering religion "organised superstition."[6] He majored in journalism at Baruch College (then a branch of the City College of New York) and began performing as a comedian under the name Paul Maul. He recalled:

While in college, I started working for an anti-censorship paper, The Independent. After I left college I started working there full time. So, I never had a normal job where I had to be interviewed and wear a suit and tie. I became their managing editor and also did freelance stuff for Mad magazine. But Mad was aimed at a teenage audience, and there was no satirical magazine for adults. So it was a kind of organic evolution toward The Realist, which was essentially a combination of satire and alternative journalism.[7]

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was active in politically edged humor and satire. Krassner was a founder of the Youth International Party (Yippies) in 1967 and a member of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, famous for prankster activism. He was a close protégé of the controversial comedian Lenny Bruce, and the editor of Bruce's autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People.[8] With the encouragement of Bruce, Krassner started to perform standup comedy in 1961 at the Village Gate in New York.[8]

In 1963, he created what Kurt Vonnegut described as

a miracle of compressed intelligence nearly as admirable for potent simplicity, in my opinion, as Einstein's e=mc2." Vonnegut explained: "With the Vietnam War going on, and with its critics discounted and scorned by the government and the mass media, Krassner put on sale a red, white and blue poster that said FUCK COMMUNISM. At the beginning of the 1960s, FUCK was believed to be so full of bad magic as to be unprintable. ... By having FUCK and COMMUNISM fight it out in a single sentence, Krassner wasn't merely being funny as heck. He was demonstrating how preposterous it was for so many people to be responding to both words with such cockamamie Pavlovian fear and alarm.[9][10]

In 1971, five years after Lenny Bruce's death, Groucho Marx said, "I predict that in time Paul Krassner will wind up as the only live Lenny Bruce."[8]

The Realist Main article: The Realist

The Realist was published on a fairly regular schedule during the 1960s, then on an irregular schedule after the early 1970s. In 1966, Krassner published The Realist's controversial "Disneyland Memorial Orgy" poster, illustrated by Wally Wood, and he recently made this famed black-and-white poster available in a digital color version. Krassner published a red, white and blue poster that read "Fuck Communism," and enclosed copies with an issue of The Realist. He also mailed one to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover with a note that said "I hope you get a chuckle out of the enclosed patriotic poster." Krassner's hope was that he would be arrested for sending obscene material through the mail, which would allow him to get publicity for his magazine. He was disappointed when no prosecution resulted.[11]

Krassner's most notorious satire was the article "The Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book", which followed the censorship of William Manchester's book on the Kennedy assassination, The Death of a President. At the climax of the grotesque-genre short-story, Lyndon B. Johnson is described as having sexually penetrated the bullet-hole wound in the throat of John F. Kennedy's corpse.[12] According to Elliot Feldman, "Some members of the mainstream press and other Washington political wonks, including Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, actually believed this incident to be true."[13] In a 1995 interview for the magazine Adbusters, Krassner commented: "People across the country believed – if only for a moment – that an act of presidential necrophilia had taken place. It worked because Jackie Kennedy had created so much curiosity by censoring the book she authorized – William Manchester's The Death Of A President – because what I wrote was a metaphorical truth about LBJ's personality presented in a literary context, and because the imagery was so shocking, it broke through the notion that the war in Vietnam was being conducted by sane men."[14]

In 1966, he reprinted in The Realist an excerpt from the academic journal the Journal of the American Medical Association, but presenting it as original material. The article dealt with drinking glasses, tennis balls and other foreign bodies found in patients' rectums.[15] Some accused him of having a perverted mind, and a subscriber wrote "I found the article thoroughly repellent. I trust you know what you can do with your magazine."[15]

Krassner revived The Realist as a much smaller newsletter during the mid-1980s when material from the magazine was collected in The Best of the Realist: The 60's Most Outrageously Irreverent Magazine (Running Press, 1985). The final issue of The Realist was #146 (Spring, 2001).


Krassner was a prolific writer. In 1971 he published a collection of his favourite works for The Realist, as How A Satirical Editor Became A Yippie Conspirator In Ten Easy Years.[16] In 1981 he published the satirical story Tales of Tongue Fu, in which the hilarious misadventures of the Japanese-American man Tongue Fu are mixed with a wicked social commentary. In 1994, he published his autobiography Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in Counter-Culture. In July 2009, City Lights Publishers released Who's to Say What's Obscene?, a collection of satirical essays that explore contemporary comedy and obscenity in politics and culture.

He published three collections of drug stories. The first collection, Pot Stories for the Soul (1999), is from other authors and is about marijuana. Psychedelic Trips for the Mind (2001), is written by Krassner himself and collects stories on LSD. The third, Magic Mushrooms and Other Highs (2004), is by Krassner too, and deals with magic mushrooms, ecstasy, peyote, mescaline, THC, opium, cocaine, ayahuasca, belladonna, ketamine, PCP, STP, "toad slime," and more.

Other activities

In 1962 Paul published an anonymous interview with Dr Robert Spencer detailing his involvement in illegal but safe abortions.[17] Subsequent to the publication Paul received calls from women asking to be put in contact with the interviewee. Paul was later subpoenaed to appear before grand juries investigating abortion crime.

In 1965 Paul contributed to the Free University of New York a lecture entitled "Why the New York Times is funnier than Mad Magazine".[18] In 1968, Krassner signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[19]

In the 1960s, Krassner was a regular contributor to several men's magazines including Cavalier and Playboy.[20] Cavalier hired Krassner for $1,000 per month to write a column called "The Naked Emperor."[21] In 1971, Krassner worked as a weekend radio personality and disk jockey at San Francisco's ABC-FM radio affiliate, KSFX, (subsequently KGO-FM). Under the pseudonym "Rumpelforeskin", he satirized culture and politics while espousing his atheism. He was also a contributor to early issues of Mad magazine. He often appears as a stand-up comedian, and he was among those featured in the 2005 documentary The Aristocrats. Krassner also remains a prolific lecturer. He has been a frequent speaker at both the Starwood Festival[22][23] and the WinterStar Symposium.[24][25] In 1998 he was featured at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with Wavy Gravy during their exhibit entitled I Want to Take You Higher: The Psychedelic Era 1965–1969.[26] Currently, he is a columnist for The Nation, AVN Online and High Times Magazine. He also is a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post and The Rag Blog.

Krassner has also written about the Patty Hearst trial and possible connections between the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).[27]

Krassner's legs appeared in John Lennon and Yoko Ono's 1971 film Up Your Legs Forever.[28]


Krassner is the only person to win awards from both Playboy magazine (for satire) and the Feminist Party Media Workshop (for journalism). He was the first living man to be inducted into the Counterculture Hall of Fame,[29] which took place at the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. He received an American Civil Liberties Union Uppie (Upton Sinclair) Award for dedication to freedom of expression, and, according to the FBI files, he was described by the FBI as "a raving, unconfined nut."[8][30] George Carlin commented: "The FBI was right, this man is dangerous – and funny; and necessary."[8] In 2005 he received a Grammy nomination for Best Album Notes for his essay on the 6-CD package Lenny Bruce: Let the Buyer Beware.


Krassner was harshly criticized, along with many males on the Left, in Robin Morgan's classic feminist manifesto, "Goodbye to All That":[31][32][33][34]

Goodbye to lovely "pro-Women's Liberationist" Paul Krassner, with all his astonished anger that women have lost their sense of humor "on this issue" and don't laugh any more at little funnies that degrade and hurt them: farewell to the memory of his "Instant Pussy" aerosol-can poster, to his column for the woman-hating men's magazine Cavalier, to his dream of a Rape-In against legislators' wives, to his Scapegoats and Realist Nuns and cute anecdotes about the little daughter he sees as often as any properly divorced Scarsdale middle-aged father; goodbye forever to the notion that a man is my brother who, like Paul, buys a prostitute for the night as a birthday gift for a male friend, or who, like Paul, reels off the names in alphabetical order of people in the women's movement he has fucked, reels off names in the best locker-room tradition—as proof that he's no sexist oppressor.

See also Bibliography Books Collections of drug stories Articles collections books Articles

Interviews Discography

Stand-up comedy recordings:

Filmography References
  1. ^ Krassner, P.; Jacobsen, S.D. (August 15, 2014). "Paul Krassner: Founder, Editor, & Contributor, The Realist". In-Sight (6.A).
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Recital by Violin Pupils". New York Times. January 15, 1939
  4. ^ Rosenbaum, Fred, Cosmopolitans: a Social and Cultural History of the Jews of the San Francisco Bay Area, University of California Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-520-25913-3.
  5. ^ Brian A. Pace. ""An IMC Interview with Paul Krassner" by Brian A. Pace, 06.May.2004 14:05". Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  6. ^ Krassner, P: Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in Counter-Culture, ISBN 0-671-89843-4
  7. ^ Loompanics: Paul Krassner Archived July 18, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b c d e Krassner bio at
  9. ^ The original FUCK COMMUNISM banner
  10. ^ Kurt Vonnegut's Foreword to Krassner's The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race
  11. ^ The Realist Cartoons, edited by Paul Krassner, p. 9.
  12. ^ The Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book – The Realist, Issue No. 74 – May 1967, cover page and page 18
  13. ^ Paul Krassner and The Realist by Elliot Feldman
  14. ^ Cat Simril Interviews Paul Krassner by CAT SIMRILin from "Adbusters Quarterly" Journal of the Mental Environment (Winter 1995 Vol. 3 No. 3).
  15. ^ a b Here Lies Paul Krassner Reprinted from AIGA Journal of Graphic Design, vol.18, no. 2, 2000.
  16. ^ BeatBooks: How A Satirical Editor Became A Yippie Conspirator In Ten Easy Years. (YIPPIE). KRASSNER, Paul[dead link]
  17. ^ "How the realist popped americas cherry". Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  18. ^ Ferment Magazine by Roy lisker, accessed 16 July 2012
  19. ^ "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" January 30, 1968 New York Post
  20. ^ Farber, David (1988). Chicago '68. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 25. ISBN 0226238008.
  21. ^ Krassner, Paul (July 16, 2019). "Paul Krassner Recalls Lenny Bruce, Cavalier Magazine 50 Years Later". Variety. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  22. ^[dead link]
  23. ^ Kates, Bill (1997). Best of the Fests: Starwood Festival in High Times, 1997
  24. ^ Association for Consciousness Exploration. Paul Krassner
  25. ^ Association for Consciousness Exploration. WinterStar Symposium 1998
  26. ^ The Psychedelic Era Archived September 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "''Double Agent'' by Paul Krassner". June 21, 1972. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  28. ^ Jonathan Cott (July 16, 2013). Days That I'll Remember: Spending Time With John Lennon & Yoko Ono. Omnibus Press. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-78323-048-8.
  29. ^ Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles (April 9, 2002). "Website". London: Guardian. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  30. ^ Reflections on the Art of the Put-on by Michael Dooley July 03, 2007
  31. ^ Badley, Linda (1995). Film, Horror, and the Body Fantastic. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 106. ISBN 0313275238.
  32. ^ Keetley, Dawn (March 30, 2005). Public Women, Public Words: A Documentary History of American Feminism, Volume 3 (Google eBook). Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0742522369.
  33. ^ Lord, Catherine (May 1, 2010). "Wonder Waif Meets Super Neuter". October. 132: 135–163. doi:10.1162/octo.2010.132.1.135.
  34. ^ Rodnitzky, Jerome L. (1999). Feminist Phoenix: The Rise and Fall of a Feminist Counterculture. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0275965759.
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