FAQ for Students

What were you like in high school?
I was a pretty good student, but I also had a pretty big mouth. I liked entertaining my fellow students.

Did you write in high school? How did your writing career begin?
I wrote some humor pieces for my high-school paper; I guess that's how my career started.

When did you decide to become a professional writer?
Basically when I found a newspaper that was willing to hire

How did you get such an awesome job as a humor columnist?
I'm still not really sure. It happened gradually, while I was trying to have a real career.

What made you decide to write humor?
The fact that you don't need to be accurate.

Who is your role model?
I don't have one.

Who were your influences?
My parents (especially my mom); Robert Benchley; Mad

How do you get ideas for your columns?
Everywhere -- other people, the newspapers, TV, life in general. A lot of stuff comes from my readers.

Do you ever sit down to write your weekly column and just not feel like being funny? What do you do?
I often don't feel funny; I just keep at it, and eventually something appears.

Is it hard to TRY to be funny all the time? I.e., is it
a tear-out-your-hair, chew-the-pencil-to-the-bone process
or do you just scribble things on napkins after a stiff drink?
Mostly the former. I've found that when I scribble things on napkins, the next day I have no idea what I meant. Sometimes I looks as though I blew my nose on there. Sometimes I DID blow my nose on there. That's why I do so many booger jokes.

Who or what do you find funny?
The U.S. government. Also dogs.

Does/Did your character on "Dave's World" reflect your real life personality?
Not really. My life is more serious, and I spend a lot more time writing.

What is the strangest thing you ever did to get material for a column or book?
I guess setting fire to a pair of underpants with a sparking Barbie doll.

What do you hope to be doing in 20 years?
What I'm doing now.

Many would say you are one of the most inspiring editorialists of our days.
What do you think about that?
It makes me very nervous.

Do you think you're getting funnier now that you're getting older, or do
you think it's just funny that you're getting older?


What message would you like to send to the teenagers of America?
Your hats are backward.

What training does a career in journalism require?
There are no standard requirements. The best training is actual experience, as an intern or freelancer.

What natural abilities or interests are needed for a career in journalism?
Curiosity, skepticism, and literacy.

Is there good job availability for those who choose journalism?
Not particularly. Many newspapers are cutting their staffs.

How would you rate the opportunities for advancement in journalism?

I'd say pretty good, for talented people.

Would you advise youngsters to become journalists, or do you take pity on your fellow man?
It's more that I take pity on youngsters when I advise them not to go into this line of work.

Could you list a particular advantage of being a journalist?
It's almost never boring.

A particular disadvantage?
Deadlines create a lot of stress.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in journalism (such as college courses to take, things to study)?

Read a lot and write a lot. Above all, get practical work experience at real newspapers; this is MUCH more important than academic courses.

What courses would you recommend as being the most beneficial for one interested in journalism?

English and history.

Would you recommend graduate school?

No. Real-world experience is WAY better.

Would you recommend internships? If so, what kind?
Yes; at newspapers that let interns report and write stories that actually get printed.

Please describe an average entry-level position for a journalist.
It'd be at a small- to medium-sized newspaper, probably as a general-assignment reporter, covering meetings, fires, police news, etc. Also writing obits.

What aspects of journalism do you enjoy the most?
It's rarely boring; there's no routine.