Counterculture Icon Paul Krassner Dead at 87
Leading ’60s counterculture figure Paul Krassner died at the age of 87 on July 21, his daughter confirmed.
Once a member of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, Krassner – an accomplished violinist – was also known as a journalist, comedian and political activist. He published the free-thought magazine The Realist from 1958 until 2001 and wrote a number of books, including Lenny Bruce’s autobiography in 1965.
He co-founded the Youth International Party (Yippie) in 1967, and helped spearhead satirical political campaigns including running a pig for president. He was present but not arrested when the “Chicago 8” group of Yippie members were arrested during a political demonstration in 1968.
“Lenny Bruce was my role model as a stand-up performer, and novelist Joseph Heller was my biggest influence as a satirical writer,” Krassner told The Sun Magazine in 2009. “Heller explained to me how, in his book Catch-22, he used exaggeration so gradually that unreality became more credible than reality.”
He said he’d made the decision to spend his life provoking action because he "couldn’t help but notice the difference between what I experienced in the streets and the way it was reported in the mainstream media, which acted as cheerleaders for the suppression of dissent.”
Looking back on his achievements, Krassner reflected, “In the wishful-thinking corner of my mind, pushing the limits and fostering social change are inextricably connected, but I don’t have any delusions that I’ve inspired an epidemic of epiphanies. People don’t like to be lectured to, but if you can make them laugh, their defenses come down, and for the time being they’ve accepted whatever truth is embedded in your humor.
"When a large audience of people are all laughing together, no matter how disparate their backgrounds are, it’s a unifying moment. But who’s to say how long that moment of truth or unity lasts and whether it leads to any action? It’s one more positive input, but rarely a tipping point.”
No further details of Krassner’s death at his home in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., were revealed. He is survived by his wife and daughter.