Idiosyncratic singer, satirist Kinky Friedman comes to town

Kinky Friedman

By Dan Durchholz, Special to the Light

It’s a good time to be Kinky. Kinky Friedman, that is.

The singer/songwriter/novelist/humorist and occasional Texas politician is enjoying something of a renaissance these days, and is on tour promoting – well, all things Kinky. He will be at Off Broadway in St. Louis Friday evening.

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He hasn’t recorded any new music in years, but songs like “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore,” “Ride ‘em Jewboy” and “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed” are indelible classics of the politically incorrect variety. Willie Nelson, a longtime friend, is currently recording an album of Friedman’s songs.

Friedman has two new(ish) books out – “What Would Kinky Do? How to Unscrew a Screwed Up World” and “Heroes of a Texas Childhood” – which follow on the heels of a long and successful series of mystery novels featuring a detective named – what else? – Kinky Friedman. His entire catalog is being re-released as e-books as well as audio books, read by the author himself.

“It really is a David and Goliath thing,” Friedman says by phone from Los Angeles, where he’s working on a book with actor/singer Billy Bob Thornton. “We’re working without any publishers or bookstore chains or any big power agents or publicists. We’re hoping that young people will check this out. And older people, who had the Kinky collection in the past, but the cat’s [urinated] on it.”  

Such ventures are a new and unfamiliar world to Friedman who calls himself, “not only the King of the Jews in Texas, but King of the Luddites, too. I have people that do that stuff for me, though, and they tell me a lot of people are downloading them.”

As for recording the audiobooks, he says, “If you’ve never had the pleasure of reading something that you wrote 25 years ago…it’s an experience. You just have to do it without slashing your wrists. Fortunately, for me the books hold up pretty well, because I can’t remember how they ended.”

Friedman gained national notoriety on the political scene when he ran for governor of Texas in 2006. Some of his campaign slogans, such as “Why the hell not?” and “My Governor is a Jewish Cowboy” did better than the actual campaign. But Friedman was serious about issues such as illegal immigration (he wants to increase the presence of Texas National Guard on the border exponentially and impose heavy fines on companies hiring illegals) and capital punishment (“We’re whacking people about every two weeks in Texas, and we’re getting it wrong some of the time.”)

But the campaign had its lighter side, too. “As the first Jewish Governor of Texas, I said I’d reduce the speed limit to 54.95,” he recalls.

Friedman garnered 12.6 percent of the vote (“We like to round it up to 13 percent,” he says), which is not bad for an independent. And he still believes he could do the job well.

“But what I’m realizing is that being a musician is a much higher calling than being a politician,” he says. “What I said during the campaign – and this is absolutely true – was that musicians could better run the country than politicians. We wouldn’t get a lot done in the morning, but we’d work late and we’d be honest.”

As for the people that do run the country, Friedman argues that President Obama’s Israeli policy alone is reason enough not to re-elect him. He calls Representative Dennis Kucinich and Senators Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders, Washington’s “three wise men.” As for the rest, he says they should be limited to two terms: “one in office and one in prison.”

One issue that can still get Friedman riled up is the ban on smoking taking hold across the country these days. Friedman sells his own line of cigars and goes through quite a few of them in a day’s time.

“It’s un-American” he says of the bans. “I should very well be able to put up a bar right there in St. Louis that says ‘Kinky’s Bar – Smoking Allowed.’ And you should be able to put one up next to it where smoking isn’t allowed.”

He goes on to note that health is the reason most often cited for the bans, but points to a number of foreign countries where smoking rates are higher, as is the average lifespan.

“The only thing we can conclude from this,” he says, “is that speaking English is killing us.”

Kinky Friedman performs at 8 p.m., Friday, April 29, at Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp. Tickets are $25-$28. Call 314-773-3363. Friedman’s ebooks, etc. are available at kinkyfriedman.com.

Kinky Friedman

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue, St. Louis

How much: $25-$28

More info: www.offbroadwaystl.com