Art Buchwald -- satirist, social commentator and author of 30 books -- was a humorist before he became a writer. "[When I was] about 8 years old," he recalls, "I made the kids in class laugh, I made fun of the establishment, the principal, the teachers, and from then on, I was always making people laugh." He observes, "When you're a kid, they beat you over the head [for making fun]. When you grow up, they pay you large sums of money to do the same thing!"
Not just money, but awards, as well. Buchwald received the Pulitzer Prize for Outstanding Commentary in 1982 and in 1986 was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
During a career spanning more than half a century, Art Buchwald has written over 8000 columns that appeared regularly in about 300 newspapers around the world. At its height, Buchwald's column was carried by 550 papers.
Any politician is fair game for his razor-sharp wit and often-hilarious satire. "I'm against whoever's in power," he confides, admitting that personally, he was neither a Democrat nor a Republican. "If you're in power, you're dangerous…. I don't pick on them as people, I pick on them in regards to a situation. Then I take on, say, Don Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense. He announced he was creating the Bureau of Misinformation. And there was such flak about it, he announced a week later he was closing it. And we didn't know whether he really was closing it, or it was more misinformation!"
Buchwald used his column to speak out against President Bush's decision to invade Iraq. "I believe unilateral war is not any good for us or for the world. So I write about that, and I have good reason to write about it because it's scary. We're sending [a lot of] troops over there, boats, everything, and yet nobody really knows what we're gonna do once we get in and once we get out."
He has said he wants his words to make people think, not just laugh. "I try to come in from the side, not from the front," he explains. "I make up things, as you say, fantasy. But when people read it, they say, 'it could happen, it could happen.'"
During an appearance on VOA's Talk to America in 2002, when he was 80, Art Buchwald said he never planned to retire. The reason? He didn't play golf… "and if you don't play golf, what else are you going do but keep working? I'll do it as long as they let me do it. I have to keep a level up, because when you've done it as long as I, a lot of people think you're dead."
And he has kept writing, even after being diagnosed with kidney failure. He decided, in February, to forego dialysis, which could prolong his life. "It was a tough decision," he admits, because it affects other people, including family. "But I made it, I was relieved. It was over, the decision was made. The only part of it that I don't understand - and nobody else understands, is why I'm still here."
In fact, Buchwald noted in a recent column, what started out as a 3-week deathwatch in a hospice has turned into nearly four months. So, he did what any keen observer of the human condition would do – he began writing a book. It’s called, "Standby in Heaven: The Man Who Wouldn't Die."