P.J. O' Rourke dead at 74

He probably has one suit still. Might be linen


You also have to look at the period we were immersed in. Magazines like MAD and Cracked were not exactly paragons of virtue when it came to combating (or even not participating in) racism and the like in their own pages. :man_shrugging:


I enjoyed him as a panelist on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, but that is also literally the only thing I knew about him until today. :woman_shrugging:t2:

Also, and this isn’t directed at you, I do find it confusing that so many people seem to think that using the occasion of an artist’s death to revisit their work and (possibly) even find fault in some of it is somehow uncouth. We (as a culture) generally do that at every major event in an artist’s life, why would death be any different?


OMG I remember that National Lampoon article. The actual issue was called “The Beware Foreigners Issue”, I think. I recall some of the jokes to this day (I was like, 13 or so when I found a copy in the garage while searching for the stash of Playboys). Damn, I don’t remember that first page at all. I feel a little ill for having once found it all quite hilarious.


Yeah, it probably does get warm in that box.




I’ve translated a book by O’Rourke into Dutch once, way back when. Oh, in 2008, I see. Can’t say I remember all that much about it, though. Things that you translate and that don’t really move or interest you profoundly get temporarily stored in your medium-term memory and are flushed once the job is done and the book is published. So it goes.


You folks are being unfair to P.J. in two ways. First, you are applying 2022 sensibilities to his 1970’s writing, when the country was different and he was different. That excuse won’t cut it in this crowd but it does for me. His content was much a piece with the searing irreverence of the “National Lampoon.” He was also a dumb Harvard smartass. He grew up, as we all did. Second, he punched up, not down as often as not. He deplored hypocrisy and corruption in any quarter and was happy to skewer the powerful. BB shows you that cringy NatLamp page but read one of his more recent books. We should all be so clever.


Love And Hip Hop Fight GIF

Folks have always been aware of racism and its effects on society for as long as the idea existed.


On. The. Nose. In order for his witticisms to work as he wanted them to, they were usually fueled by absolutes that left no room for facts.


Look on the bright side everyone! P.J. Harvey still lives!


Legitimate criticism is legitimate.

I don’t think we should define any person by the worst things they ever did, but it’s totally fair to consider them when taking stock of a person’s life and impact.

So you concede that he did do a lot of punching down.


Would you say that it was okay to own slaves in, say, the 18th century because it was the 18th century?


Most other “National Lampoon” writers either punched up or parodied those who punched down. As I said in the Ivan Reitman obituary topic, the magazine’s comedic sensibility incorporated (from a mainly WASP and Irish Catholic cultural viewpoint):

class-focused social commentary […], a greater willingness to incorporate sex and drugs, [and] gross-out and tasteless humour

A lot of it hasn’t aged well but a lot of it was also considered mean-spirited and what we now would call “edgelord stuff” at the time of publication.

Reitman is actually a timely contrast. He didn’t write for the magazine as O’Rourke did but he helped bring its sensibility to the big screen and to a wider audience. He did so mainly by emphasising the tendency of the magazine to punch up against the wealthy and authoritarian (read the kind of people who voted Republican) during the same period O’Rourke was backing away from it.

O’Rourke effectively decided to join with the real-life analogues of Marmalard and Smails and Stillman in supporting Reaganism and neoliberalism. Reitman, perhaps because of his own background and history, had no time for bothsidesism or for turning a blind eye to certain types of greed and tyranny and bigotry and corruption out of careerist expediency.

He never went to Harvard, which I’ll grant is a point in his favour. Once he went conservative he did like to play the sort of drawling preppy legacy fratboy who felt right at home in that milieu, though.

Only in the sense, as noted by @Elmer above, that he was yet another Boomer who opportunistically abandoned any youthful progressivism during the Reagan years and favoured conservatives unless they were truly déclassé (which is the main reason he opposed Biff). His ironic racist and sexist articles at the “Lampoon” were later taken as his actual views by his fratboy and moneyCon fans and he didn’t go out of this way to disabuse them of that notion.

The only times I recall him doing anything resembling punching up was when he was mocking Democratic politicians, donors, and celebrities who called for progressive reform and equity (and occasionally taking aim at easy targets like developing-world dictators). However, he built the bulk of his career on punching down and victim-blaming.

Really? If so he went remarkably light on both Reagan and Bush the Elder and the Lesser despite all of their administrations being absolutely rife with hypocrisy and corruption and abuses of power. The worst they’d get from him was a little tut-tutting whn they were too obvious and clumsy.

Cleverness in the service of evil is no virtue.


that isn’t looked down upon as much as it is with politicians where it is almost considered a crime to point out any, even the most hideous, flaws in them. it seems somehow necessary to pour treacle over the casket of even the most villainous politicians when they die.


You’re being unfair to us. We thought that shit was racist in the 1970’s.


Funny how people who say racism was okay back in the day are always the same ones who complain how pervasive “wokeness” is today. :thinking:


Are you seriously trying to tell us that no one in the 1970s were talking about racism and misogyny… That’s not going to fly, as plenty of folks here were there in the 1970s and were grown ass adults and were pushing back against this kind of bullshit masquerading as comedy.

Talking about getting a woman to suck his dick while drunk in a car is punching up?


Yes, I do agree. He had a perspective of privilege and it showed. As he matured his targets were more toward structures of oppression and less ad hominem mockery. He was a satirist. Period. So snark is what he did. He cheerfully made fun of everything and everybody. White South Africans during Apartheid made easy targets when he wrote “In Whitest Africa” for “Rolling Stone” in 1986. An excerpt:

Everywhere you go in the world somebody’s raping women, expelling the ethnic Chinese, enslaving stone-age tribesmen, shooting communists, rounding up Jews, kidnapping Americans, settling fire to Sikhs, keeping Catholics out of the country clubs and hunting peasants from helicopters w/ automatic weapons. The world is built on discrimination of the most horrible kind. The problem with South Africans is they admit it. They don’t say, like the French, “Algerians have a legal right to live in the sixteenth arrondissement, but they can’t afford to.” They don’t say, like the Israelis, “Arabs have a legal right to live in West Jerusalem, but they’re afraid to.” They don’t say, like the Americans, “Indians have a legal right to live in Ohio, but oops, we killed them all.” The South Africans just say, “Fuck you.” I believe it’s right there in their constitution: “Article IV: Fuck you. We’re bigots.” We hate them for this. And we’re going to hold indignant demonstrations…until the South Africans learn to stand up and lie like white men.

That’s a good example of what everyone is talking about. He is (in the worst tradition of neoliberalism) actually praising the former South African regime for being straightforward about their bigotry (which, he implies, is the natural state of humanity) and then laughing at liberals and progressives in the U.S. for taking umbrage at it and trying to do anything to change it. He’s punching down even as he gives a half-hearted easy punch up at the apartheid regime.

I suppose if you share his assumptions you’d miss that, but the fact is that the white supremacist regime there did fall, despite the efforts of the Reaganites to prevent it and in significant part because of that progressive outrage O’Rourke mocked.