Sharing a memory of an American satirist and Miami alumnus

BY DONNA BOEN ’83, MTSC ’96, MIAMIAN EDITOR

With the recent news of American satirist and Miami alumnus P.J. O’Rourke’s passing, we remember P.J. by sharing the following profile that originally ran in the Spring 1994 MIAMIAN alumni magazine.

Political satirist P.J. O’Rourke ’69 returned to his alma mater recently to sit in on a week’s worth of classes and bull sessions. His mission — delve into the psyche of today’s college student.

The students loved the attention. The administrators were perhaps less certain. After all, here’s a guy who finds humor in war.

“Oh, there’s no beating a good war,” says O’Rourke, 46, who, as foreign affairs editor for Rolling Stone, spends a third of the year traveling and splits the rest of his time between homes in Washington, D.C., and New Hampshire.

“Wars and revolutions and stuff like that. Cultures as different from our own as I believe it’s possible to get. They just make it more interesting to write about because everything you see around you is news to the people you are writing for.”

O’Rourke put aside his foreign correspondent duties to discover what changes have occurred at Miami since he graduated 25 years ago. The students may not be all that different, but Patrick Jake is.

“Well, we didn’t have hippies yet when I came here. I was sort of a beatnik. At that age, of course, everything’s pseudo. You’re not a real anything. You’re just a real kid,” he says, laughing.

“I was, I suppose in theory, too rebellious for the Miami atmosphere and would have thought myself happier at Antioch or Brandeis. In fact, it was probably much more fun to be rebellious at Miami.”

The beatnik of the ’60s became the National Lampoon reporter in the ’70s, going through a nebulous conversion from liberal to conservative. He seems an odd pick for Rolling Stone.

“I like the publication because I’m not preaching to the choir. I mean, I’m the only politically conservative voice in Rolling Stone. And I don’t think that Rolling Stone readers, for that matter, even conservative college students, get exposed to much in the way of conservative politics.”

O’Rourke has parlayed his biting humor into success with such books as Give War a Chance, Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government, and Republican Party Reptile.

A sampling of his satire:

”Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”

”Democrats are the party that says government can make you richer, smarter, taller, and get chickweed out of your lawn.”

”Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then get elected to prove it.”

P.J. O’Rourke sees humor everywhere.

“I used to say at the Lampoon that being asked is there anything you won’t make fun of is like asking a doctor is there any disease you won’t treat. ’Course, actually, there are diseases some doctors won’t treat.”

He laughs.