Groucho Marx debates William F. Buckley, Jr: "Is the World Funny?" (1967)


Originally published at:


Well, it produced Bill Buckley, so…


Wait, so The Lazlo Letters are actually an homage the The Groucho Letters?


Best thing to be said about Buckley is that he was a douche bag.


Ahhh, was there ever such a smug, punchable face as Buckley? trick question, of course- Richard Spencer!

Seriously though, these are great, but if you haven’t seen it, Vidal v. Buckley takes the cake. I don’t want to spoil it, but hot damn if it ain’t a classic moment in live tv…

Chomsky was quite capable of mashing Buckley’s buttons as well-


Thanks for posting these. I’ve never seen the Chomsky one, and thankfully the whole thing is also online -


It’s so hard to take Buckley seriously.
He seems like some broad caricature by a bad actor.


Despite all the $10 words and the mid-Atlantic accent and the WASP trappings, Buckley was a right-wing street thug at his rotten core. He would have been equally at home in a white sheet or brown shirt as he would have in his academic’s tweeds.


This interview is fascinating, especially in light of today’s pundits. The lack of screaming and shouting is lovely, as is Marx’s subtle, relaxed parrying of Buckley’s assholish glinty-eyed barbs. Also, that “satisfied vs. contented” bit was good.


Groucho always struck me as extremely bright, quick witted, and funny. I never realized he was profound. Thanks for posting this.


While I’m not exactly a fan of Gore Vidal, his venom is infinitely superior. Vidal was to deadly nightshade as Buckley was to syphilis. (I still don’t know why ACT turned down my test writer application.)


I’m glad this was posted, but I found it writhingly uncomfortable to watch! I love Groucho (I know, so do many…), and I rather loathe WFBJr (again, so do many). I got the impression that there was a poisonous exchange between them just before the show. And the poor moderator! So weird…
One thing I’ll say for WFBJr, is that when I was very small and watched the show, I was fascinated by the ridiculous vocabulary. When an obscure word is used to illuminate, it is a wonderful thing. When it is used to exclude and puff up, it is dreadful.


It’s disappointing that such a distinguished intellectual would stoop to debating a clown like William F. Buckley, Jr.


I didn’t know the word lucubration before today but it sounds like Buckley mispronounced it.



He was overcompensating for his Catholicism by being more WASP than thou. He was a member of the Knights of Malta.

“The release of his first book, God and Man at Yale, in 1951 was met with some specific criticism pertaining to his Catholicism. McGeorge Bundy, dean of Harvard at the time, wrote in The Atlantic that “it seems strange for any Roman Catholic to undertake to speak for the Yale religious tradition.” Henry Sloane Coffin, a Yale trustee, accused Buckley’s book of “being distorted by his Roman Catholic point of view” and stated that Buckley “should have attended Fordham or some similar institution.”[32]”


Just started this and it’s something you don’t have to watch. Just start it and listen in the background.

Interesting talk.


It seems a bit misleading to say the subject is, “Is the world funny?” when all Buckley seemed interested in doing was attacking Groucho. But that’s probably all Buckley had even before Groucho answered the question in such a thoughtful, measured way.


as smug as Buckley is, it’s still wonderful to listen to two people (pardon me judge) sit and talk rather deeply for long periods of time without throwing hot takes and zingers and cutting each other off.


Part of it is that ridiculous affectation. It’s like Maude in the Big Lebowski.
I do appreciate the conversations on Firing Line, though. Listening to the '69 Chomsky one today.


Buckley looks like he was dripped into his chair.