While I was placing my order in a fastfood restaurant the other day, a woman stepped up to the counter beside me and almost immediately broke into loud laughter. When she finally brought herself under control, she explained, somewhat apologetically, that she had simply read the title of the book I was holding: Don't Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards by P.J. O'Rourke.
I assured her that the book is even funnier than the title, which is a little surprising considering that it is a book about, among other things, foreign policy, global warming, the trade imbalance, terrorism, taxes and health care reform. Throughout his career, O'Rourke, who grew up near me in northwestern Ohio, has displayed a rare gift for making serious points with funny lines.
In fact, the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, which I wrote about here a week ago, includes 38 O'Rourke quotations. This compares with such other notable wits as Woody Allen (28), G.K. Chesterton (14), Gore Vidal (22), Winston Churchill (25), Neil Simon (26) and Lewis Carroll (25). Mark Twain has 43 quotations in the book, but he's dead, while O'Rourke remains very much alive. Don't Vote alone has a line on practically every page that could bring the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations or Bartlett's calling before their next editions. Here are a few of them:
"Freedom of speech is important -- if you have anything to say. I've checked the Internet; nobody does."
"The best investment I've made lately? I left a twenty-dollar bill in the pocket of my tweed jacket last spring and I just found it."
"Assusing someone of being rich is like accusing someone of adultery in the Gospel of St. John. Let he who is without anything anybody wants cast the first vote."
"The best way to have a good political system is to avoid politics."
"You can remove morality from politics like you can remove the head from a chicken and they'll both keep going, politics much longer than the chicken."
"Government is so inefficient that it can't even get bribe-taking right."
That's P.J. O'Rourke out of context. In context, he's even funnier.