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Dave Barry, please don’t leave

This glorious newspaper has always lacked something. No, not correct spelling. Dave Barry.

I always wanted to print him in the BG News, not because I love his work, but so my columns would look comparatively stupid.

Doesn’t look like that’s gonna happen. Effective January of next year, Barry announced he is taking an indefinite leave of absence from writing his weekly humor column.

How sad is this? Imagine Chris Berman leaving SportsCenter. George Carlin calling it quits with stand-up comedy. Bob Barker walking away from “The Price Is Right.”

While Barry is not officially retiring, he will be gone, presumably, for a year. The 57-year-old icon of humor writing says he wants to spend more time with his family, and he will continue to write books and finish filming the movie based on his book, “Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys.”

If you have never read Dave Barry’s humor columns, you have two months left to experience his masterful wit as it happens. There are a lot of folks who have never heard of Barry because he has not had a lot of TV exposure. (Just more proof: because you’re on TV doesn’t mean you’re intelligent. I’m talking about you, Ryan Seacrest.)

His weekly column is carried by hundreds of newspapers. It appears every Friday in the Toledo Blade, and a hefty archive of hilarity is accessible on the Miami Herald Web site –www.miami.com.

And if you want to read snippets of his past columns but are too lazy to retype “www.miami.com” into your Web browser, then maybe I should follow the proper “show, don’t tell” rule of journalists, and give you a taste of Dave Barry right now.

On traffic: “FACT: Gridlock is so bad that as many as 15 percent of women drivers now pass the time by picking their noses. (The figure for men remains steady at 100 percent.)”

On Olympic badminton: “The game itself is quite different from your backyard game. Instead of hitting the shuttlecock onto the roof, the opposing players — who are crouching across the net from each other, about as far apart as Ted Koppel’s ears — hit the shuttlecock directly at each other at approximately the speed of light. So a typical point takes about two seconds — zipzipzip — followed by wild Indonesian applause.”

On how to make small talk at a funeral: “You can’t go wrong with: ‘What’s that smell?'”

The man’s won a Pulitzer. He has published over 25 books — most being compilations of his columns. He wrote a few original novels, one of which was turned into a movie — “Big Trouble” starring Tim Allen. He’s even in a band: The Rock Bottom Remainders, a group of other talented writers such as Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Stephen King and Matt Groening.

He’s accomplished so much. He’s done it all. He deserves a vacation. On behalf of his fans, we just want him to continue on with his craft.

The year 2005 will be empty without Barry’s insight. And in imperfect world such as ours, humor is necessary to prevent idealists and cynics from developing ulcers. Humor is what separates cultured societies from bitter terrorists. It unites people that would never get along with each other. Barry typified that practice.

All hope is not lost, as there is a vast library of insightful commentary that will delight Barry’s alert readers. He recommends “The Onion,” one of the most accurate sources of societal satire. I recommend it too, but you don’t care.

Dave Barry has been the Miami Herald’s humor columnist for the past 20 years, and he has not missed a step ever since he began writing about exploding toilets and stupid Christmas presents. Aspiring humor writers, including yours truly and most of our Not News staff, write in the shadows of Barry.

Of course, Barry doesn’t buy into the hype.

When fellow Herald writer Daniel Chang asked him about the way he writes, he responded, “I just read the papers and go, ‘Well, that’s stupid.’ And I write 800 words and when it boils down to it, it’s ‘Well, that was stupid.’ They can do that without me.”

Actually, Dave, no we can’t.

Maybe we can, but not as well as you.

E-mail Matt with comments at [email protected].

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