While Paul Krassner doesn't have the immediate name recognition of some of his cohorts (Lenny Bruce, Timothy Leary, and Abbie Hoffman), his irreverent, literate satire made him an unsung countercultural hero during the '60s and beyond. A crucial figure in the development of the American alternative press, Krassner was denounced by the FBI as a "raving, unconfined nut" for his independent journal the Realist, an unpredictable blend of genuine reporting, outlandish satire, witty sociopolitical commentary, and provocative subject matter. Following stints as a standup comedian and a writer for Mad magazine, Krassner began publishing the Realist in 1958, and it established him as arguably the most compelling voice in underground journalism; by the time it ceased publication in 1974, its peak circulation was estimated to be over 250,000. The Realist's trademark was its penchant for blurring the lines between real-life absurdities and satirical exaggerations, allowing readers to infer which pieces were put-ons. (Some never quite got the distinction, even in obvious cases -- including the magazine's most notorious prank, a story in which Lyndon Johnson violated John F. Kennedy's corpse aboard Air Force One.) Krassner's brand of journalism frequently crossed the line into personal activism; for example, after running an interview with an abortion doctor in the Realist (in the days prior to Roe v. Wade), Krassner began covertly referring women to competent doctors willing to perform the procedure.
Krassner hardly confined himself to Realist-related activities. Most famously, he co-founded the Yippies with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, actually coining the term himself. He was associated with writer Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, and was a longtime friend of LSD guru Timothy Leary, among other '60s celebrities; additionally, he edited Lenny Bruce's autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People. Krassner also contributed articles to a variety of publications, winning awards from groups as diverse as Playboy magazine and the Feminist Party Media Workshop, and even served for a short time as an editor at Larry Flynt's notorious Hustler during the late '70s.
Krassner resurrected the Realist in 1985, this time as a newsletter resembling the D.I.Y. 'zine format that became widely popular during the '90s. His memoirs were published in 1993 under the title Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counter-Culture. In the late '90s, Krassner began to document his standup comedy career as well, putting out his first-ever recording (We Have Ways of Making You Laugh) in 1996. A follow-up, Brain Damage Control, appeared in 1997, as did an anthology of his satirical writings, The Winner of the Slow Bicycle Race. Further comedy albums appeared in the form of 1999's Sex, Drugs, and the Antichrist: Paul Krassner at MIT and 2000's Campaign in the Ass. ~ Steve Huey