Lemur, Nude Nun, Donald Trump Play With Soccer Dads: Interview

The cover jacket of "Lunatics" by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel. Source: Penguin Group via Bloomberg

After drinking too many gin and tonics in Donald Trump’s private Republican National Convention skybox, Jeffrey Peckerman accidentally urinates on Sarah Palin’s head.

This comes near the end of “Lunatics,” a novel written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Dave Barry, whose books include “Dave Barry’s Guide to Marriage and/or Sex,” and Alan Zweibel of “Saturday Night Live” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fame.

It’s the story of two Jewish New Jersey soccer dads, plumber Jeffrey Peckerman, written by Barry, and pet shop owner Philip Horkman, written by Zweibel, who hate each other yet wind up together, running from police, terrorists, thugs, pirates and ferocious bears -- in Central Park.

At one point, in a cave in Yemen, the duo is ordered to host a propaganda show described by the director as “joshing camaraderie between two humorous friends, interspersed with playful references to the need to exterminate all Jews from the planet.”

Universal Pictures has bought “Lunatics” as a vehicle for Steve Carell, and the Barry-Zweibel team is working on the screenplay.

We spoke at Bloomberg world headquarters in New York.

Lundborg: Who did more work?

Zweibel: He did.

Jeffrey Peckerman

Barry: It was 50-50, though at the end I put more thought in because he showed no signs of wanting to finish it, so I had to say, “Alan, it’s due tomorrow.”

Lundborg: What was the work process like?

Zweibel: I would write a chapter for my character, Philip Horkman, and send it to Dave, not knowing what he’s going to do with it.

Then three or four days later it would be in my inbox and I’d open it and go, “Okay, so there’s a lot of diarrhea in this submarine now.”

Lundborg: Which character was easier to write?

Barry: Definitely mine. All I had to do was figure out what would be the most wrong thing to do, the most thoughtless, rude, unacceptable thing, and that would be Jeffrey Peckerman.

Lundborg: What’s your favorite bit?

Zweibel: I love the epilogue. We had so many loose ends, like the woman with the insulin pump. And Buddy the Lemur.

Barry: The scene in the cave where they have to make a television broadcast. The two are surrounded by terrorists and Alan has them telling jokes.

Lemur Wrangler

Lundborg: Your movie seems as expensive to produce as a James Bond picture. Is that a problem?

Zweibel: Actually, the figure $300 million came up very quickly.

Barry: That’s just the lemur budget. We have to get a lemur wrangler. But you might just see animals borrowed from “The Lord of the Rings.”

Lundborg: You’re both old hands at comedy, so does it get easier?

Barry: No. But you get more confidence that if you put in the time, you have the tools to make it work. The only times it gets easier is if you lower your standards.

Lundborg: Our political climate certainly makes it seem easier. For example, you wrote that Rick Perry said his goal was “restoring the fundamental American right to life, liberty and the third thing.”

Barry: I basically take events and don’t change them that much -- just enough to remind people of what’s funny about them.

Lundborg: Why is there so much scatological humor now?

Nude Nun

Zweibel: You mean there was a time it wasn’t like this?

Lundborg: During the time of Aristophanes and of Shakespeare there was a lot, but in America not that long ago you didn’t constantly come across all those diarrhea and vomit gags.

Zweibel: We’re hearkening back to “Romeo, I just soiled myself.”

Lundborg: Why is there no sex in your book?

Zweibel: There’s a little bit. My guy falls in love with a naked nun.

Barry: My guy masturbates in a crate.

Lundborg: Is there anything that’s taboo?

Barry: You can’t write about religion, child molestation and rape.

Zweibel: We’re doing Jihad material, and I was a little sensitive to that -- at what point do we cross the line?

Barry: In case there’s any question, it was Alan Zweibel, the Jew, whose idea it was to do the Jihad jokes.

Lundborg: The worst insult is to tell someone he has no sense of humor. Why is that?

Barry: I think it’s not just a quirk if you have no sense of humor. It’s actually a mental deficiency, maybe a mental disorder.

Lundborg: Laughter is the antidote to suffering?

Barry: We’re the only animals that are aware the world is dangerous and we’re going to die.

There are two reactions to that: one is religion -- “It’s not really going to end” -- and the other is humor, where you laugh because you have to relieve the anxiety and there’s no other way to do it.

If you don’t have a sense a humor, your only option is to be very religious.

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Zinta Lundborg is an editor for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own. This interview was adapted from a longer conversation.)

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