P. J. O'Rourke

Patrick Jake O'Rourke (born November 14, 1947) is an American political satirist and journalist. O'Rourke is the H. L. Mencken Research Fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and is a regular correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, The American Spectator, and The Weekly Standard, and frequent panelist on National Public Radio's game show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Since 2011, he has been a columnist at The Daily Beast.[1]

P. J. O'Rourke
O'Rourke in 2007
Patrick Jake O'Rourke

(1947-11-14) November 14, 1947 (age 73)
Alma mater
  • Amy Lumet
    (m. 19901993)
  • Tina O'Rourke
    (m. 1995)

In the UK, he is known as the face of a long-running series of television advertisements for British Airways in the 1990s. He is the author of 20 books, the best known of which are Holidays in Hell, a compilation of O'Rourke's articles as a free-lance foreign correspondent, and All the Trouble in the World, an examination of current political concerns such as global warming and famine from a libertarian perspective.[citation needed]

The Forbes Media Guide Five Hundred, 1994 states, "O'Rourke's original reporting, irreverent humor, and crackerjack writing makes for delectable reading. He never minces words or pulls his punches, whatever the subject."[2]

Life and career

O'Rourke was born in Toledo, Ohio, the son of Delphine (née Loy), a housewife, and Clifford Bronson O'Rourke, a car salesman.[3][4] He graduated from Toledo's DeVilbiss High School in 1965,[5] received his undergraduate degree from Miami University in 1969 and earned an M.A. in English at Johns Hopkins University (where he was a brother of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity) in 1970. Many of O'Rourke's essays recount that during his student days he was a leftist, anti-war hippie, but that in the 1970s his political views underwent a volte-face. He emerged as a political observer and humorist rooted in libertarian conservatism.

O'Rourke wrote articles for several publications, including "A.J. at N.Y.U." for The Rip Off Review of Western Culture, an underground magazine/comic book, in 1972, as well as pieces for the Baltimore underground newspaper Harry and the New York Ace, before joining National Lampoon in 1973, where he served as editor-in-chief, among other roles, and authored articles such as "Foreigners Around the World"[6] and "How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink."[7]

He received a writing credit for National Lampoon's Lemmings which helped launch the careers of John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and Christopher Guest. He also co-wrote National Lampoon's 1964 High School Yearbook with Douglas Kenney. O'Rourke said later that Kenney brought comedy to the piece and he brought the organization. The Yearbook was a bestseller and some themes were later used in the movie Animal House.[citation needed]

Going freelance in 1981, O'Rourke's writing appeared in Playboy, Vanity Fair, Car and Driver, and Rolling Stone. He became foreign-affairs desk chief at Rolling Stone, where he remained until 2001. In 1996, he served as the conservative commentator in the point-counterpoint segment of 60 Minutes. During the Bosnian genocide, O'Rourke received criticism for using the American public's lack of interest in Bosnia as a way to joke about "unspellables killing the unpronouncables."[8]

O'Rourke has published 16 books, including three New York Times bestsellers. Parliament of Whores and Give War a Chance reached #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list. O'Rourke was a "Real Time Real Reporter" for Real Time with Bill Maher covering the 2008 presidential election.[9]

Personal life

O'Rourke was married to Amy Lumet, a daughter of movie director Sidney Lumet and a granddaughter of Lena Horne, from 1990 to 1993. Since 1995 he has been married to his second wife, Tina; they have two daughters, Elizabeth and Olivia, and one son, Clifford. In an interview with The New Statesman, O'Rourke revealed that his "wife is a Catholic, the kids are Catholic" and described himself as, therefore, a "Catholic fellow-traveller". The family divides their time between Sharon, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.[10]

O'Rourke revealed on September 28, 2008, that he had been diagnosed with treatable anal cancer, from which he expected "a 95% chance of survival."[11]

In 2009, O'Rourke described the presidency of Barack Obama as "the Carter administration in better sweaters".[12] However, in 2016, he endorsed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. O'Rourke stated that his endorsement included her "lies and empty promises," and said, "She's wrong about absolutely everything, but she's wrong within normal parameters."[13]


O'Rourke was a proponent of Gonzo journalism; one of his earliest and best-regarded pieces was "How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink", a National Lampoon article in March 1979.[14] The article was republished in two of his books, Republican Party Reptile (1987) and Driving Like Crazy (2009).

O'Rourke's best-received book is Parliament of Whores, subtitled A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government, whose main argument, according to the author, "is that politics are boring".[15] He has described himself as a libertarian.[16]

O'Rourke types his manuscripts on an IBM Selectric typewriter, though he denies that he is a Luddite, asserting that his short attention span would make focusing on writing on a computer difficult.[17]


  • National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook Parody (1974; with Doug Kenney); ISBN 978-1-59071-057-9
  • National Lampoon Sunday Newspaper Parody (1978; with John Hughes) ISBN 978-1-59071-037-1
  • Modern Manners (1983) ISBN 978-0-87113-375-5
  • The Bachelor Home Companion (1986) ISBN 978-0-87113-686-2
  • Republican Party Reptile (1987) ISBN 978-0-87113-622-0
  • Holidays in Hell (1989) ISBN 978-0-8021-3701-2
  • Parliament of Whores (1991) ISBN 978-0-8021-3970-2
  • Give War a Chance (1992) ISBN 978-0-679-74201-2
  • All the Trouble in the World (1994) ISBN 978-0-87113-611-4
  • Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut (1995) ISBN 978-0-87113-653-4
  • The American Spectator's Enemies List (1996) ISBN 978-0-87113-632-9
  • Eat the Rich (1999) ISBN 978-0-87113-760-9
  • The CEO of the Sofa (2001) ISBN 978-0-8021-3940-5
  • Peace Kills: America's Fun New Imperialism (2004) ISBN 978-0-8021-4198-9
  • On the Wealth of Nations: Books That Changed the World (2007) ISBN 978-0-8021-4342-6
  • Driving Like Crazy (2009) ISBN 978-0-8021-1883-7
  • Don't Vote! – It Just Encourages the Bastards (2010) ISBN 978-0-8021-1960-5
  • Holidays in Heck (2011) ISBN 978-0-8021-1985-8
  • The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn't My Fault) (And I'll Never Do It Again) (2014) ISBN 978-0-8021-2197-4
  • Thrown Under the Omnibus (2015) ISBN 978-0-8021-2366-4
  • How the Hell Did This Happen? The Election of 2016 (2017) ISBN 978-0802126191
  • None of My Business: P.J. Explains Money, Banking, Debt, Equity, Assets, Liabilities, and Why He's Not Rich and Neither Are You (2018) ISBN 978-0-8021-2848-5
  • A Cry from the Far Middle: Dispatches from a Divided Land (2020) ISBN 978-0-8021-5773-7

See also


  1. "P.J. O'Rourke". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on May 4, 2017. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  2. Terry Eastland, ed. Forbes Media Guide Five Hundred, 1994: A Critical Review of the Media (1994) p. 301
  3. "Serving Up Emily Post with a Wicked Twist, P.j. O'rourke Takes Aim at Modern Manners". Archived from the original on 2014-02-20.
  4. O'Rourke, P.J. (January 7, 2014). The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way... Grove/Atlantic, Inc. ISBN 9780802121974 via Google Books.
  5. 1965 Pot O' Gold, Volume 33, Thomas A. DeVilbiss High School
  6. Karp, Josh (2006). A Futile and Stupid Gesture. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press. p. 273. ISBN 1-55652-602-4.
  7. Karp, Josh (2006). A Futile and Stupid Gesture. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press. pp. 336–37. ISBN 1-55652-602-4.
  8. "Matt Frei's diary: Dilemmas of intervention". BBC. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  9. "P.J. O'Rourke | TV Guide". TVGuide.com. Retrieved 2018-12-24.
  10. O'Rourke interview, newstatesman.com; accessed April 28, 2017.
  11. Give me liberty and give me death, Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2008.
  12. Shanahan, Leo (April 23, 2009). "The world (and its crisis) according to P.J." The Age. Melbourne: Fairfax Media. Retrieved December 22, 2011.
  13. Gass, Nick (May 9, 2016). "P.J. O'Rourke hate-endorses Hillary Clinton on NPR quiz show". Politico. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
  14. "Full text". Archived from the original on January 24, 2003. Retrieved 2006-05-05., National Lampoon mirror, Internet Archive, archive made 01-24-2003, archive retrieved 05-05-2007.
  15. Swirski, Peter (2010). "Ars Americana Ars Politica". McGill-Queen's University Press.
  16. Live Online with PJ O'Rourke Archived 2008-07-03 at the Wayback Machine, The Washington Post September 10, 2001.
  17. Garner, Dwight (November 9, 2007). "Stray Questions for: P. J. O'Rourke". The New York Times.