Dave Barry has made me laugh -- and countless others, too -- for more years than I care to count.
My first Dave Barry encounter was at the Star-Telegram, which ran his syndicated column from the Miami Herald. At the time, I was writing my own humor column, which appeared three times weekly.
Barry became one of my idols. He wasn't just funny, he was laugh-out-loud funny. Off-the-wall, outrageous, whacky, insightful. Barry reported on life in all its absurd glory, and there was never a shortage of material.
Take, for example, Barry's latest book -- "Best. State. Ever." Subtitled, "A Florida Man Defends His Homeland." When you want to write about weird, over-the-top people and places, you'll never find more to work with than the Sunshine State.
The good news for Barry is you don't have to make this stuff up. Most of "Best. State. Ever." is harvested right from the news. Like the widely-reported case of the woman driving in the Keys and shaving her private parts at the same time. (Not only did it make this book, but was the main character in Carl Hiaasen's "Razor Girl.")
But beyond the kooky characters and how the Yankees have hijacked our roadways, Barry has penned a marvelous travel book, highlighting Florida legends (The Skunk Ape), Florida attractions (Weeki Wachee and Gatorland) and even Florida mysticism (Cassadaga). There's also a tour of Key West as only Barry can do, a stay at the Villages (where Barry attempts to answer the question, is elderly swinging really going on) and adults having fun with machine guns at Miami's Lock and Load.
The book definitively answers one question: For humor writers, Florida is, without a doubt, world champion, "Best. State. Ever."
Yes, I know it's spelled like "Jerry." No, I don't know why it's pronounced "Gary."