Kurt Vonnegut on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, 2005
What evolution has to do with unsent letters and everything that’s wrong with war.
By Maria Popova
It’s hard to define the essence of the great Kurt Vonnegut‘s gift, but it might have a lot to do with the precision of his humor’s arrow, which pierces the very heart of the human condition and contemporary culture. In 2005, shortly after the release of his final* book, A Man Without a Country — a collection of short personal reflections on everything from the differences between men and women to the double-edged swords of technology to the importance of humor — an 82-year-old Vonnegut appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Steward, proving his wit every bit as sharp and his social commentary every bit as astute as it ever was, tackling everything from creationism to the Bush administration to overpopulation to the Iraq war.
Underpinning his sharp satire, however, is a certain kind of sadness, perhaps one only palpable to those who have devoured Vonnegut’s revealing recent biography, one of the 11 best biographies and memoirs of 2011.
Jon Stewart: I always felt in your writing that you were both admiring of man but disappointed in him.
Kurt Vonnegut: Yes, well, I think we are terrible animals. And I think our planet’s immune system is trying to get rid of us and should.
For more Vonnegut gold, see the author’s fictional interviews with luminaries and his NPR interview in Second Life mere months before his death.
* In 2009, the excellent posthumous anthology Armageddon in Retrospect was released, collecting 12 never-before-published essays.
Published February 20, 2012