Music

20 Questions: Kinky Friedman

Peta Andersen

Richard "Kinky" Friedman is a modern Renaissance man -- he's an author, comedian, politician, musician, animal rights activist, and cigar salesman. Friedman tells 20 Questions about Mexican mouthwash, Winston Churchill, and Australia.

Richard "Kinky" Friedman is a modern Renaissance man -- he's an author, comedian, politician, musician, animal rights activist, and cigar salesman. He's been endorsed by Willie Nelson and is famous for his politically-incorrect song, "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore". Now, he's back touring the West Coast for the first time in almost 20 years, singing, talking, and signing copies of his latest book, Heroes of a Texas Childhood.

In a quiet corner of a New Mexico casino, Friedman tells PopMatters 20 Questions about Mexican mouthwash, Winston Churchill, and Australia.

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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Well, I've always said that there's two things I can't stand, and that's a shitty baby and a crying man. That's what a bum told me in Nashville many years ago, Patrick O'Malley. Today we would call him a homeless person. As I would say, homeless go home. Maybe Winston Churchill, his biography, by Martin Gilbert.

2. The fictional character most like you?

I don't know. Sherlock [Holmes]. Maybe Miss Marple.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Sweetheart of the Rodeo by the Byrds.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

What? None of the above. Probably Star Trek, whatever older people like.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Well, I wouldn't be spitting it, but it'd be Mexican mouthwash. Tequila.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Probably running for governor as an independent four years before everybody came around to thinking the way I do. I was ahead of my time. And behind in my rent. So that makes me an artist.

7. You want to be remembered for... ?

[Being] a drinker with a writing problem.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

I like Moses and Jesus, who were two good Jewish boys who got in a little trouble with the government.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

That's a tough one. Maybe the volume Love is a Dog from Hell by Charles Bukowski.

10. Your hidden talents... ?

Hidden talents? It's not so hidden, but irritating people. I think it's a very good thing. It's very Christ-like in a way. You know, he never had a home, and never had a job, wasn't married, and traveled around the country with a band of long-haired friends irritating people. That was Jesus.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Well nobody takes good advice, but I like Winston Churchill's "Keep calm and carry on". And my best advice to people is to find what you like and let it kill you.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

Probably my preachin' coat, from Manuel's, in Nashville.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or... ?

I feel best in Armani, of course. No, I'm kidding. I've never done it and hopefully I never will have to.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Hank Williams, the aforementioned Charles Bukowski, Vincent Van Gogh, Gandhi, Churchill. You've got Hank Williams in there, right? Waylon Jennings. Those are all the dead people. They're the best.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

Well, I think Fred Imus said it the best: what's wrong with America is Bill Maher has a star on the same boulevard as Elvis. Which is what's wrong with our country. So I guess we have to go forward, but going backward would be very attractive. But then only hummingbirds can fly backwards, so we've got to move forward. Forward to whatever.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation, or Prozac?

Dress management? Stress management! I'll go with hitman, whatever that means.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or... ?

The essentials are Kona coffee, Cuban cigars, women. And of course, bottled water. The last is a joke, yeah.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Let's go with Australia, definitely. Any place. I think that's far enough away... [Australians] are great, because they don't have all the hangups Americans do. Not yet, anyway.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Stop this government by ego. And try to have some of the imagination and courage and generosity of spirit that Winston Churchill had. But that of course is impossible, because I think you have to be born with those things.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

I'm working on a secret project with Willie Nelson, and I'm working on a book with Billy Bob Thornton. And there's a play called Becoming Kinky: The World According to Kinky Friedman which was written and directed by Ted Swindley, who did Always . . . Patsy Cline, which was a huge hit. And I've seen this play, which features a young Kinky, a middle aged Kinky, and an older Kinky and it's very, very funny and wise and poignant. 'Course I'm saying this and I'm trying to be subjective. I had nothing to do with the play; I only saw the staged reading of it. But soon it should be coming to a theater near you. Becoming Kinky--if that thing hits, I think I'll finally be able to resign from the human race.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


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