Peter, Paul, and Harry. L-R: Satirist, documentarian, and actor Harry Shearer; writer, comedian, and raconteur Paul Krassner; and the late Firesigner Peter Bergman.
In 1968, I was watching TV coverage of the Democratic National Convention. I remember turning to my father and asking, "Dad, why are the police beating up those students?" "I don't know, son," my father replied.
Thus, at age thirteen, I learned to question authority because they didn't know everything. Later I learned those students were led by activists Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Paul Krassner, and other "Yippies."
Krassner came up with the name for their group, The Youth International Party, and years later I was lucky to get to write for his countercultural magazine The Realist, which he published from 1958-2001. Paul taught me how many ways there are to have a conversation. He interviewed major players like Norman Mailer, Ram Dass, and Groucho Marx in iconoclastic "Impolite Interviews." He's been an avatar in exploring consciousness; writing about his psychedelic journeys with everyone from Ken Kesey and the Grateful Dead at the pyramids in Giza to John Lennon at an oceanside cabin in northern California.
He also unashamedly used substances. In our interview, Paul vividly recalls how, when they both took LSD, Groucho was seeing visions of gothic cathedrals, but he was seeing cockroaches; and how when John and Yoko were smoking their pot/opium joints, Yoko said, "Put another cookie on the fire."
Not only did Paul once write for Mad Magazine and edit Lenny Bruce's autobiography, but in the 1960s when abortion was still illegal, he ran a free underground abortion-referral service for safe doctors. Now 80, the social satirist and his wife Nancy Cain (author of Video Days) live in Desert Hot Springs, so I don't get to see them much.
The FBI called Krassner, "a nut, a raving unconfined nut," which he turned into a title for an autobiography: Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counterculture.
I'm proud to call this confessed nut a friend. He taught me to question everything.