O'Rourke, (b. 11/14/1947), the most quoted living man in The
Penguin Dictionary of Modern Humorous Quotations.
[A]merica is where the wildest humans on the planet came to do anything
they damn pleased.
[T]here are several recognizable types of humorous activity. There is
parody, when you make fun of people who are smarter than you; satire,
when you make fun of people who are richer than you; and burlesque, when
you make fun of both while taking your clothes off.
"Change" has a warm, vernal sound at age twenty-two. Then comes a day
when all the word brings to mind is "any change in a wart or mole ..."
A bimbo is a young woman who's not pretty enough to be a model, not
smart enough to be an actress, and not nice enough to be a poisonous
A hat should be taken off when you greet a lady and left off for the
rest of your life. Nothing looks more stupid than a hat.
A little government and a little luck are necessary in life; but only a
fool trusts either of them.
A lot of people out there think Easy Rider had a happy ending.
A nation with a goofy foreign policy needs a very serious policy of
A record number of savings-and-loan failures left America with a
nationwide shortage of flimsy toaster ovens, cheap pocket calculators,
and ugly dinnerware.
A Texas accent can be developed by most of the normal means of acquiring
After all, what is your hosts' purpose in having a party? Surely not for
you to enjoy yourself; if that were their sole purpose, they'd have
simply sent champagne and women over to your place by taxi.
Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut.
Always read the stuff that will make you look good if you die in the
middle of it.
America wasn't founded so that we could all be better. America was
founded so we could all be anything we damn well pleased.
American children grow up to be valuable citizens. Bangladeshi children
grow up to be part of the world population problem. They just aren't
giving birth to any Marky Marks or Howard Sterns in Dhaka.
And by the way, I've about had it with this "greatest generation"
malarkey. You people have one stock market crash in 1929, and it takes
you a dozen years to go get a job. Then you wait until Germany and Japan
have conquered half the world before it occurs to you to get involved in
World War II. After that you get surprised by a million Red Chinese in
Korea. Where do you put a million Red Chinese so they'll be a surprise?
You spend the entire 1950s watching Lawrence Welk and designing tail
fins. You come up with the idea for Vietnam. Thanks. And you elect
Richard Nixon. The hell with you.
Anything that makes your mother cry is fun.
Are we disheartened by the breakup of the family? Nobody who ever met my
At 47 the things which really matter and the things which are really fun
are the dreadful things that our parents really said mattered. Family
and work and duty. Crap like that.
At least we American tourists understand English when it's spoken loudly
and clearly enough. Australians don't. Once you've been on a plane full
of drunken Australians doing wallaby imitations up and down the aisles,
you'll never make fun of Americans visiting the Wailing Wall in short
Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race.
Being gloomy is easier than being cheerful. Anybody can say "I've got
cancer" and get a rise out of a crowd. But how many of us can do five
minutes of good stand-up comedy?
Britain, France and Germany are obscure branch offices of American
culture and may be closed in the interests of rational consolidation.
Canadians don't deal with the same kind of health care problems and
traumas we face. They have a health care system based on treating hockey
injuries and curing sinus infections that come from trying to pronounce
Communists worship the Devil himself. Socialists believe damnation is a
good system run by bad people. And liberals want to send everyone to
hell because it's warm there in the winter.
Considering the image projected, bicycling commuters might as well
propel themselves to the office with one knee in a red Radio Flyer wagon.
Corporate corruption gives al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other Muslim
radicals second thoughts about messing with the United States. If we'll
screw our own grandmothers in the stock market, God knows what we'll do
Dammit, I am for some stuff, but not too much of it, and against other
stuff, but not too against it.
Drugs are a one-man birthday party. You don't get any presents you
Drugs have taught an entire generation of American kids the metric
During the mid-1980s dairy farmers decided there was too much cheap milk
at the supermarket. So the government bought and slaughtered 1.6 million
dairy cows. How come the government never does anything like this with
Each American embassy comes with two permanent features; a giant
anti-American demonstration and a giant line for American visas. Most
demonstrators spend half their time burning Old Glory and the other half
waiting for green cards.
Earnestness is just stupidity sent to college.
Economics is an entire scientific discipline of not knowing what you're
Even a band of angels can turn ugly and start looting if enough angels
are unemployed and hanging around the Pearly Gates convinced that all
the succubi own all the liquor stores in Heaven.
Every generation finds the drug it needs.
Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a
democracy, the whores are us.
Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them.
Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the
Everyone's very busy, though not exactly working.
Everything that's fun in life is dangerous.
Explain the concept of death very carefully to your child. This will
make threatening him with it much more effective.
Fame is a communicable disease. If you get screwed by someone who's got
it, you may catch it yourself.
Feeling good about government is like looking on the bright side of any
catastrophe. When you quit looking on the bright side, the catastrophe
is still there.
Fish is the only food that is considered spoiled once it smells like
what it is.
Fishing... is a sport invented by insects, and you are the bait.
Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys
to teenage boys.
Government proposes, bureaucracy disposes. And the bureaucracy must
dispose of government proposals by dumping them on us.
Guns are always the best method for private suicide. Drugs are too
chancy. You might just miscalculate the dosage and just have a good time.
Harvard has been almost as important to the American Jewish community as
the pork-sausage industry.
Humans are the only animals that have children on purpose with the
exception of guppies, who like to eat theirs.
I guess the argument of contextuality is that anything is okay as long
as it's done by people who are sufficiently unlike you.
I hate political correctness because it's founded on the idea that by
means of language you can escape truth- that if you simply give a
different name to something you've somehow changed it. It is a very
I like to do my principal research in bars, where people are more likely
to tell the truth or, at least, lie less convincingly than they do in
briefings and books.
I like to think of my behavior in the Sixties as a "learning
experience." Then again, I like to think of anything stupid I've done as
a "learning experience." It makes me feel less stupid.
I'm a registered Republican and consider socialism a violation of the
American principle that you shouldn't stick your nose in other people's
business except to make a buck.
I... know why most societies don't allow women in combat. Combat is just
a battle to the death. You don't want to turn it into something really
ugly like a marriage.
Idealism is based on big ideas. And, as anybody who has ever been asked
"What's the big idea?" knows, most big ideas are bad ones.
If Europeans didn't discover America, then how'd we all get here?
If God had wanted me to attend church, He'd have given me a bigger butt
to sit on, and a smaller head to think with.
If government were a product, selling it would be illegal.
If Martin Luther were a modern ecologist, he would have to nail
ninety-five T-shirts to the church door in Wittenberg.
If the outdoors are so swell, how come the homeless aren't more fond of
If the U.S. is going to be involved in military multilateralism, it
should ask its partner nations that ancient question of diplomacy, "You
and what army?"
If we want to demoralize the population of Iraq and sap their will to
fight, we ought to show them videotapes of the South Bronx, Detroit City
and the West Side of Chicago. Take a look, you Iraqis- this is what we
do to our own cities in peacetime. Just think what we're going to do to
yours in a war.
If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test
people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed
and love of power.
If you are young and you drink a great deal it will spoil your health,
slow your mind, make you fat-in other words, turn you into an adult.
If you say a modern celebrity is an adulterer, a pervert and a drug
addict, all it means is that you've read his autobiography.
If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it
costs when it's free.
In general, life is better than it has ever been, and if you think that,
in the past, there was some golden age of pleasure and plenty to which
you would, if you were able, transport yourself, let me say one single
In Japan people drive on the left. In China people drive on the right.
In Vietnam it doesn't matter.
In order to understand the stock market we have to realize that, like
anything enormous and inert, it's fundamentally stable, and, like
anything emotion-driven, it's volatile as hell. Got that? Me neither.
In our brief national history we have shot four of our presidents,
worried five of them to death, impeached one and hounded another out of
office. And when all else fails, we hold an election and assassinate
In school we had a name for boys trying to get in touch with themselves.
In what is widely thought to be the largest leveraged buyout to date,
Donald Trump announced that if everyone in the world will lend him all
the money they have, he will buy everything they own.
Indeed, getting America involved in anything of a multilateral nature is
like naming The Rock to an Olympic rowing team and giving the other oars
to David Spade and Calista Flockhart. When America does manage to
participate, as an equal, in the community of nations, the results are
not pretty. Look at the stupid U.N. And somewhere in the hills of former
Yugoslavia the ghost of Woodrow Wilson wanders Marley-like, dragging his
chains and regretting the deeds of his life. Yet the foolish notion of
one-worlders persists: Let the lion lie down with the lamb chop.
Industrialization came to England but has since left.
Instead of a society infested with lawyers they [Russia] have a society
infested with hit men. Which is worse, of course, is a matter of opinion.
It is easy to understand why the cat has eclipsed the dog as modern
America's favorite pet. People like pets to possess the same qualities
they do. Cats are irresponsible and recognize no authority, yet are
completely dependent on others for their material needs. Cats cannot be
made to do anything useful. Cats are mean for the fun of it. In fact,
cats possess so many of the same qualities as some people that it is
often hard to tell the people and the cats apart.
It takes a village to raise a child. The village is Washington. You are
It's all there in the Declaration of Independence. We are the only
nation in the world based on happiness.
It's better to spend money like there's no tomorrow than to spend
tonight like there's no money.
Japan turned out to be a macroeconomic Pokémon craze.
Keeping house is as unpleasant and filthy as coal mining, and the pay's
a lot worse.
Let's reintroduce corporal punishment in the schools... and use it on
Lust, Pride, Sloth, and Gluttony, or, as we call them these days,
"getting in touch with your sexuality," "raising your self-esteem,"
"relaxation therapy," and "being a recovered bulimic."
Making fun of born-again Christians is like hunting dairy cows with a
high powered rifle and scope.
Man has been breeding livestock for ten thousand years and has yet to
come up with a monstrous sheep that can trample buildings and graze a
whole golf course for breakfast.
Marijuana is... self-punishing. It makes you acutely sensitive, and in
this world, what worse punishment could there be?
Maybe a nation that consumes as much booze and dope as we do and has our
kind of divorce statistics should pipe down about "character issues."
Maybe a vague president and an incompetent and somewhat corrupt
administration is what the nation needs.
Modern society is without any concept of dignity, worth, or regard.
Today the only thing which sets one person apart from another is his or
her degree of fame.
Most vegetables are something God invented to let women get even with
their children. A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if
you let fruit rot, it turns into wine, something brussels sprouts never
Neither conservatives nor humorists believe man is good. But
Never be unfaithful to a lover, except with your wife.
Never fight an inanimate object.
Never let the people with all the money and the people with all the guns
be the same people.
Never refuse wine. It is an odd but universally held opinion that anyone
who doesn't drink must be an alcoholic.
Never serve oysters in a month that has no paychecks in it.
Never steal anything so small that you'll have to go to an unpleasant
city jail for it instead of a minimum-security federal tennis prison.
Never wear anything that panics the cat.
Nothing handles better than a rented car. You can go faster, turn
corners sharper, and put the transmission into reverse while going
forward at a higher rate of speed in a rented car than in any other kind.
Of course we're unilateral. If we Americans had wanted to be ordered
around by English wig-tops, French functionaries, bossy Germans,
disorganized Italians, tin-pot Latin American dictators, and Ice Age
Siberian bureaucrats, we would have stayed where we were.
Once the XFL was canceled for not being stupid enough, it was clear that
America's internal enemies had already triumphed.
One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual
responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your
problems on. And when you do find somebody, it's remarkable how often
his picture turns up on your driver's license.
Peat is found only in Celtic countries because God realized the Celts
were the only people on earth who drank so much that they would try to
People who are wise, good, smart, skillful, or hardworking don't need
politics, they have jobs.
Personally, I believe a rocking hammock, a good cigar, and a tall
gin-and-tonic is the way to save the planet.
Politicians are interested in people. Not that this is always a virtue.
Fleas are interested in dogs.
Politics are a lousy way for a free man to get things done. Politics
are, like God's infinite mercy, a last resort.
Politics is the business of getting power and privilege without
Politics should be limited in scope to war, protection of property, and
the occasional precautionary beheading of a member of the ruling class.
Reporters thus ignore a basic principle of news: There are two sources
you can't trust, those who won't tell their story and those who will.
Russia, as a case study, is wonderful. Unless, of course, you're a
Sloths move at the speed of congressional debate but with greater
deliberation and less noise.
Smoking crack is a way for people who couldn't afford college to study
the works of Charles Darwin.
Sociology is journalism without news.
Some people are better imagined in one's bed than found there in the
Some people are worried about the difference between right and wrong.
I'm worried about the difference between wrong and fun.
Some people say a front-engine car handles best. Some people say a
rear-engine car handles best. I say a rented car handles best.
Some women want the strong silent type, so they can tell him to shut up
and rearrange the furniture.
Sometimes you need a B-2 bomber and sometimes you need your mother.
Stay away from girls who cry a lot or look like they get pregnant easily
or have careers.
Staying married may have long-term benefits. You can elicit much more
sympathy from friends over a bad marriage than you ever can from a good
Strip a car of its paint. Strip a person of his clothes. Which looks
worse in broad daylight?
Term limits aren't enough. We need jail.
The cellular-phone industry has greatly expanded, making complete local
and long-distance service available to the homeless.
The college idealists who fill the ranks of the environmental movement
seem willing to do absolutely anything to save the biosphere, except
take science courses and learn something about it.
The difference between corporations and governments is governments have
a monopoly on force. It's a lot easier to vote with your feet or your
wallet than it is to change a government with your vote.
The fact that nothing's happening never stops a real reporter.
The founding fathers, in their wisdom, devised a method by which our
republic can take one hundred of its most prominent numbskulls and keep
them out of the private sector where they might do actual harm.
The free market is ugly and stupid, like going to the mall; the unfree
market is just as ugly and just as stupid, except there is nothing in
the mall and if you don't go there they shoot you.
The French are a smallish, monkey-looking bunch and not dressed any
better, on average, than the citizens of Baltimore. True, you can sit
outside in Paris and drink little cups of coffee, but why this is more
stylish than sitting inside and drinking large glasses of whiskey I
The French are masters of "the dog ate my homework" school of diplomatic
The French are sawed-off sissies who eat snails and slugs and cheese
that smells like people's feet. Utter cowards who force their own
children to drink wine, they gibber like baboons even when you try to
speak to them in their own wimpy language.
The Greenpeace booth at all the rock and roll shows nowadays are akin to
the old sorcerers who used to stand in the middle of villages warning of
danger, "When night wolf swallows mother moon, there will be great
The idea of a news broadcast once was to find someone with information
and broadcast it. The idea now is to find someone with ignorance and
spread it around.
The interesting thing about staring down a gun barrel is how small the
hole is where the bullet comes out yet how big a difference it would
make in your social life.
The Middle Eastern states aren't nations; they're quarrels with borders.
The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it
The notion of economic equality is based on an ancient and ugly
falsehood central to bad economic thinking: There's a fixed amount of
wealth. Wealth is zero-sum.
The one thing that can be safely said about the great majority of people
is that we don't want them around.
The only really good vegetable is Tabasco sauce. Put Tabasco sauce in
everything. Tabasco sauce is to bachelor cooking what forgiveness is to
The problem is not that 50 percent of people are females. The problem is
that 100 percent of females are humans.
The process of Darwinian selection does not work on things that don't
die. If it weren't for death we'd all still be amoebas and would have to
eat by surrounding things with our butts.
The proper behavior all through the holiday season is to be drunk. This
drunkenness culminates on New Year's Eve, when you get so drunk you kiss
the person you're married to.
The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work; then
they get elected and prove it.
The Sixties was a decade without quality control.
The Soviet Union has been reduced to a collection of too many smaller
states, creating many opportunities for k's and z's in "Scrabble."
The weirder you're going to behave, the more normal you should look. It
works in reverse, too. When I see a kid with three or four rings in his
nose, I know there is absolutely nothing extraordinary about that person.
The whole idea of our government is this: if enough people get together
and act in concert, they can take something and not pay for it.
There are a number of mechanical devices which increase sexual arousal,
particularly in women. Chief among these is the Mercedes-Benz 380SL
There are just two rules of governance in a free society: Mind your own
business. Keep your hands to yourself.
There are twenty-seven specific complaints against the British Crown set
forth in the Declaration of Independence. To modern ears they still
sound reasonable...in large part, because so many of them can be leveled
against the federal government of the United States.
There can be no greater sacrifice than that a man lay down his lifestyle
There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well
please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take
There is something more horrible than hoodlums, churls and vipers, and
that is knaves with moral justification for their cause.
There's a whiff of the lynch mob or the lemming migration about any
overlarge concentration of like-thinking individuals, no matter how
virtuous their cause.
This country was founded by religious nuts with guns.
To grasp the true meaning of socialism, imagine a world where everything
is designed by the post office, even the sleaze.
Traffic was like a bad dog. It wasn't important to look both ways when
crossing the street; it was important to not show fear.
Two wrongs don't make a right, but the Middle East is a place where two rights
don't make a right.
Undeterred by historical example, however, the EU looks to fulfill the
age-old dream of having a country of English cooks, German lovers,
French defense forces and Italian efficiency experts.
Usually, writers will do anything to avoid writing.
Very little is known of the Canadian country since it is rarely visited
by anyone but the Queen and illiterate sport fishermen.
Violence is interesting. This is a great obstacle to world peace and
also to more thoughtful television programming.
War is a great asshole magnet.
War will exist as long as there's a food chain.
Watching Republicans in Washington is like watching lemmings, if
lemmings jumped into cesspools instead of off cliffs.
We journalists don't have to step on roaches. All we have to do is turn
on the kitchen light and watch the critters scurry.
We'll run this planet as we please, and if you don't like it, go back
where we came from.
We're told cars are dangerous. It's safer to drive through South Central
Los Angeles than to walk there. We're told cars are wasteful. Wasteful
of what? Oil did a lot of good sitting in the ground for millions of
years. We're told cars should be replaced with mass transportation. But
it's hard to reach the drive-through window at McDonald's from a
speeding train. And we're told cars cause pollution. A hundred years ago
city streets were ankle deep in horse excrement. What kind of pollution
do you want? Would you rather die of cancer at eighty or typhoid fever
West Germans are tall, pert and orthodontically corrected, with hands,
teeth and hair as clean as their clothes and clothes as sharp as their
looks. Except for the fact that they all speak English pretty well,
they're indistinguishable from Americans.
Whatever it is that the government does, sensible Americans would prefer
that the government do it to somebody else. This is the idea behind
When a thing defies physical law, there's usually politics involved.
When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things
to be bought and sold are legislators.
When somebody's muffler shop goes bankrupt, the government doesn't pay
him $100,000 to not install mufflers.
When you're tied to the bed, at least you know where you are going to be
for the next few minutes...
Wherever there's injustice, oppression, and suffering, America will show
up six months late and bomb the country next to where it's happening.
Why do some places prosper and thrive, while others just suck?
Why is this soiled, crumpled, overdecorated piece of paper bearing a
picture of a rather disreputable president worth fifty dollars, while
this clean, soft, white, and cleverly folded piece of paper is worth so
little that I just wiped my nose on it?
With Epcot Center the Disney corporation has accomplished something I
didn't think possible in today's world. They have created a land of
make-believe that's worse than regular life.
Women are successful in the business world because the business world
was created by men. Men are babies. And women are... Good With Kids.
Writing is a slow and a difficult process mentally. How you physically
render the words onto a screen or a page doesn't help you. I'll give you
this example. When words had to be carved into stone, with a chisel, you
got the Ten Commandments. When the quill pen had been invented and you
had to chase a goose around the yard and sharpen the pen and boil some
ink and so on, you got Shakespeare. When the fountain pen came along,
you got Henry James. When the typewriter came along, you got Jack
Kerouac. And now that we have the computer, we have Facebook. Are you
seeing a trend here?
You are not going to achieve individuality by having your knee pierced
or wearing a great big ring in your buttock.
You are smarter than the government, so when the government pays you to
do something you wouldn't do on your own, it is almost always paying you
to do something stupid.
You can always reason with a German. You can always reason with a
barnyard animal, too, for all the good it does.
You can't get good chinese takeout in China and cuban cigars are
rationed in Cuba. That's all you need to know about communism.
You can't get rid of poverty by giving people money.
You can't put your VISA bill on your American Express card.
You say we [reporters] are distracting from the business of government.
Well, I hope so. Distracting a politician from governing is like
distracting a bear from eating your baby.
You throw these bastards out the door of totalitarianism, and back they
come through the window of environmentalism.
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