Funnier Than Me


She was only seven years older, which means that when I moved here, she was barely 40. The hard part, now, is that we won’t just go on appearing, sometimes side by side, always on the same side, in The Texas Observer.

I used to go to the Final Fridays late, after the slam poets were done, after the party had quieted down some and mainly the bitter-enders were left, just so I could sit among the butts and bottles like a bad child and listen to the rowdy tales and feel part of our group—the hard-core liberals in Texas. And just so I could watch her flash that smile, and hear her call me sweetheart now and then.

Molly was our magnet, our long memory and our cutting edge. She had a fine, sharp pen, but she was at her best, I think, at home, in company, spinning tales, honing her perfect comic pitch, that fine mix of the telling and tawdry that so captured the spirit of Texas.

Of course she was never well-behaved in public either. And her tough, funny vulgarity did more than just cut through crap. It dispelled fear. It remade how you tell truth and confront power. It forged the bonds that are only made with an earthy laugh. In this way, for most who read her and everyone who heard her speak, she broke the spell of the Bush years. The face of liberalism became Molly’s face—and who could resist it?

My father loved her (and she him). They were exactly in tune; he saw himself in her. Their purposes and their methods and in some ways their backgrounds and much of their humor were the same. He never came to Austin without saying, “Fix up lunch with Molly Ivins.” Our last good meeting came after he died; though she was quite weak, I spent several hours diverting her with stories of his last days. Once or twice I made a move to leave, but she didn’t want to stop.

My new book is dedicated, “To Molly Ivins. Funnier than me.”

Economist James K. Galbraith is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin.