At one point Buchwald was everywhere with a radio show, a slot on the TV current affairs show 60 Minutes, a Broadway play, lectures all over the country and bestselling compilations of his columns. Yet 15 years after his death at the age of 81, as the torch passed to a new generation including Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah and John Oliver, his fame has dwindled faster than expected.
“He’s dropped from the public consciousness and it’s a shame,” Hill laments. “He has, unfortunately, been forgotten. I hope this book will bring him back to life. I hope people in this tough time might get some laughs out of it too.”
He was good, very good indeed. I have a couple of collections of columns (and also read him first time around in the WaPo in the 80s) and dip into them now and again.
But he’s very rooted in the details of the specific time and events that he’s lampooning or satirising.
This is not an absolute but a tendency. An Alan Coren might use a snippet of news as the trigger for a piece that could be set at any time in the past century. The story, the joke, is often a universal. A Buchwald column of – say – Nov 1973 requires a certain familiarity with the details of Nov 1973 to get the joke and setting. His Watergate stuff was excellent, but very of its time. Knowing who Tricia Dean is/was aids for example, and while everyone did then who does now?
This isn’t, at all, to say that Buchwald was lesser but it is perhaps to try to explain why his star has faded. Very rooted in the details of the time of each column and as Tempus does Fugit…..
Definitely worth reading, if you see a book of the columns in a book stall at least try it. Wonderfully done but of a time and place.