Kinky Friedman relishes job as ‘equal opportunity offender’

Monday, October 12, 1998

Kinky Friedman...
Kinky Friedman

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Offending people must not be an easy job.


Nearly 45 minutes into a concert and conversation Friday at the First Amendment Center’s forum, Richard “Kinky” Friedman, a self-described “equal opportunity offender,” apparently hadn’t offended anyone.


By that time, Friedman had already puffed enough smoke from his Cuban cigar to fill the 100-seat auditorium; had interrupted the center’s founder John Seigenthaler with a belch of “First Amendment”; and had repeated a tasteless joke that got a producer fired after the musician appeared on the “Crook and Chase” show.


It wasn’t until he was ready to sing “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed,” a sort of anti-feminist anthem Friedman wrote more than 20 years ago, that someone finally raised an objection.


“If you just don’t get it, that’s fine,” an unapologetic Friedman told a woman asking why he pens offensive songs and books. “I’ll do a song that offends Negroes and homosexuals both, and you’ll feel better about it.”


Ken Paulson, the center’s executive director, said Friedman, in a three-decade career as a musician, author and cigar smoker, “has offended just about everybody” in his efforts to illustrate the foolishness of bigotry, hatred and close-mindedness.


“The decision to put a song like ["Put Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed] on his first album took a lot of courage if not a lack of taste,” said Paulson, noting titles of other songs such as “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore.”


After years of touring as Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, Friedman launched a writing career in 1986 with Greenwich Killing Time. He has written nine more novels, similar in tone and taste as his music.


“He as a writer is borderline offensive, borderline profane, borderline salacious, borderline outrageous, but not borderline terrific,” Seigenthaler said in introducing Friedman. “He is simply terrific.”


Paulson and Seigenthaler then eased into a rambling conversation with Friedman that revealed the musician to be the first full-blooded Jew to play the Grand Ole Opry, a man on his second day of vegetarianism and the only non-land-owning, cigar-smoking, mystery-writing, cat-loving, Irish whiskey-swigging, country artist and Jewish sex symbol from Texas.


“If I can offend one person out there,” Friedman joked. “I’ve done my job.”


Friedman admitted that earlier in his career he didn’t understand why his songs weren’t major hits.


“The Jewboys were always a very misunderstood band. It was, honestly, a country band with a social conscience, which you all know is very ludicrous,” Friedman said. “I thank the Lord we never had a hit then because I’d now be playing at Disneyland with the Pips.”


Friedman said most people refuse to recognize innovation and genius because they are too intent on following the opinions of others. He said that’s how he reconciles the fact that Willie Nelson (“the Zen Texan and last American folk hero”) isn’t as commercially successful as Garth Brooks (“the anti-Hank Williams”).


“There is not a soul in this damn town or in this world that is going to be singing a Garth Brooks song to their grandchildren no matter how many records he sells,” Friedman said.


Friedman said he identifies most closely with people who spent their lives misunderstood and rattled off names such as Jesus, Vincent Van Gogh, Emily Dickinson and the late comedian Lenny Bruce.


“I guarantee that if Van Gogh were around painting today, he would still be lying around in the gutter,” Friedman said