As Yippie co-founder Paul Krassner nears 80, he keeps mixing political with absurd
Krassner, one of the founding members of America's Youth International Party, still plays peek-a-boo with his Jewish identity, flashing a now-I-am-now-I-ain’t iconoclasm that may belie a deeper ambivalence.
Decades before Jon Stewart brought his popular admixture of satire and journalism to the mass media on Comedy Central, the unique hybrid of the two genres could be found regularly in only one very hip and often-outrageous media outlet.
But Paul Krassner, the self-described “investigative satirist” who pretty much invented the form in his late 1950s magazine, The Realist, did not stop at being just an entertainer. Krassner, whose 80th birthday will arrive on April 9, was also a child prodigy classical violinist; a stand-up comic who learned his craft at the knee of Lenny Bruce; a fellow traveler with novelist Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters on their path-breaking, hallucinogenic cross-country tour in Kesey’s psychedelic painted bus, and a cofounder, with Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, of the Youth International Party, which in 1968 nominated a pig for president in Chicago’s Grant Park, amid clouds of tear gas and hails of nightsticks from Chicago’s finest during the 1968 Democratic Party National Convention.
Krassner still does stand-up — though these days he stands up with a cane. And he still plays peek-a-boo with his Jewish identity, flashing a now-I-am-now-I-ain’t iconoclasm that may belie a deeper ambivalence.
“Whenever somebody says ‘Oy,’ I automatically say ‘Vey,’ but I’m not Jewish,” he steadfastly maintained in a telephone interview from his home in Desert Hot Springs, Calif. There, in late April, friends and relatives will celebrate the official arrival of octogenarian status for the Yippie whose party’s slogan was “Never Trust Anyone Over 30.”