Dave Barry has made a good living writing funny stuff, including dozens of books, fiction and nonfiction, and a syndicated humor column for the Miami Herald from 1983 to 2005 that snagged him a Pulitzer Prize. (Or, as we say in the South, a “pullet surprise.”)

A native Noo Yawker from the hamlet of Armonk north of NYC, he decided decades ago to settle in Florida and a unique role evolved – defending the state from those who would ridicule its overall weirdness. That led to yet another book, “Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends his Homeland.” The Wall Street Journal ran an excerpt:

“These interviewers are not always calling from states that have a lot to brag about. I have been interviewed on the wrongness of Florida by people who live in, for example, Illinois, which constantly has to build new prisons just to hold all its convicted former governors, who form violent prison gangs and get into rumbles with gangs of convicted former state legislators.

“Even so, Florida has become the Punchline State, the one everybody makes fun of. If states were characters on ‘Seinfeld,’ Florida would be Kramer: Every time it appears, the audience automatically laughs, knowing it’s going to do some idiot thing.

“But we weren’t always the Punchline State. We used to be the Sunshine State, known for our orange groves and beaches and deceased senior citizens playing shuffleboard. People might have seen Florida as boring, but they didn’t laugh at it. They laughed at New Jersey, because it contained the New Jersey Turnpike and smelled like a giant armpit. Or they laughed at California, because it was populated with trend-obsessed goobers wearing Earth shoes and getting recreational enemas.”

Dave’s theory is that the state’s image went downhill on election night of 2000. (Indeed, this orange cat thinks that is when this once-great country’s latest leg of decline began.) Again from the book excerpt:

“Florida had no earthly idea who it had voted for. By dawn we still had no winner, and network TV political analysts were openly shooting heroin on camera. Meanwhile, the morning skies over the state were darkened by vast fleets of transport planes swooping in from Washington, D.C., opening their doors and dropping tens of thousands of election lawyers. Some landed in the Everglades and were consumed by Burmese pythons. But tragically many survived … and commenced filing lawsuits. This finally ended when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in a 7-2 decision, that Florida should be given back to Spain. OK, not really. But by then, that was basically how the rest of the nation felt. … The nation had formed a negative, stereotyped image of Florida as a subtropical festival of stupid.”

Naturally, Dave has his own website, www.davebarry.com. It’s full of his archived writings and weird news items submitted by readers. No matter how you feel about Florida, it’s definitely worth a bookmark.