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Paul Krassner, Comedian Who Captured The Zeitgeist Of The '60s, Dies At 87

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Paul Krassner honed his outrageous humor as a contributor to Mad Magazine. He then refined it on the standup comedy stage and brought it to fruition in the magazine he founded called The Realist. It captured the zeitgeist of 1960s counterculture. Krassner died yesterday at his California home. He was 87. Reporter Jon Kalish has this appreciation.

JON KALISH, BYLINE: To borrow a line from the Grateful Dead, Paul Krassner's life was one long, strange trip. It began as a child violin prodigy who performed at Carnegie Hall at the age of 6 and took him to an even wider audience through The Realist as he told me in 2000.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PAUL KRASSNER: When I started, there was no counterculture. I felt like the only Martian on the block. And The Realist served to show that there was a Martian community.

KALISH: Krassner helped define the counterculture through his own absurdist humor. He coined the term Yippie before he even co-founded the Youth International Party with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and others. They went on to disrupt the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and Krassner went on to make comedy albums.

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KRASSNER: There were five black delegates at the Republican convention, and they were all played by Eddie Murphy.

(LAUGHTER)

KALISH: The records sold poorly, but producer Danny Goldberg continued to put them out because he was a fan of The Realist.

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DANNY GOLDBERG: As a kid in high school, I only aspired to have the wit and cosmic insights that Krassner seemed to just effortlessly toss off. Krassner had a lot of very big names writes for The Realist over the years - Richard Pryor and Woody Allen and other people - but I read The Realist for Paul Krassner.

KALISH: That wit sometimes got Krassner in trouble. In 1967, he published what he claimed was an excerpt that was dropped from William Manchester's book "Death Of A President," in which John F. Kennedy's corpse was violated by his successor Lyndon Johnson.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KRASSNER: The Realist has had a tradition of never labeling an article as satire or journalism because I never wanted to deprive the reader of the satisfaction of discerning for themselves whether something was true or a satirical extension of the truth.

KALISH: At its height, The Realist had a circulation of 100,000 and survived on subscriptions. Krassner pointed out he ran no advertising.

KRASSNER: I've been lucky because I've had no one to answer to - no advertisers, no editorial board, not even the readers in the sense that they trust me not to be concerned about offending them.

KALISH: Paul Krassner described himself as an investigative satirist. And for many who were part of the 1960s counterculture, he was a man who insisted on communicating without compromise.

For NPR News, I'm Jon Kalish.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHITE ELEPHANT'S "SIR JOHN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.