Dennis Prager The Goof

On his radio show Friday, Dennis Prager said: Life consists overwhelmingly of have-tos and the quicker you make peace with that, the happier your life will be.

People think that the fewer have-tos the better.

Some psychologists have the credo that there should be no shoulds in your life.

[In my experience of therapy, this is not in moral issues so much as in your expectations for yourself and from life. It is silly to wail, Joe should not treat me this way. I should be stronger. I should not feel sad, etc.]

If you don’t want a life of have-tos, you need to not marry, to not have kids, and to be born into wealth, or to be taken care of by somebody. I don’t think such a person will be happy.

Have-tos bring good things — money, family, a life. You build something. How do you build something without have-tos?

In person, Dennis Prager tends to be more low key and goofy than his talk show. He loves to hug. “I’ve always hugged guys and never felt the slightest degree of self-consciousness. I hug gay friends. I don’t have the slightest degree of self-consciousness. I don’t get that.” (Radio show, March 26, 2010)

Said Dennis in a 1995 lecture on Exodus 7: “If I may be vivid, which I am known for being, I was in an airport bathroom recently and in the stall next to me, the guy was making a lot of noises. It was very touching because after about the fourth, he says, ‘Excuse me, I’m sorry.’ And I in my stall yell back, ‘It’s a bathroom. You do not have to be sorry.’ If he had done it in line at Delta, that would be a different story. That’s what makes civilization possible.”

Said Dennis on his show Oct. 7, 2010: “There is no joy in me describing bad things. I’m a happy-go-lucky guy. I like to think nice things about everybody.”

Said Dennis on his show Jan. 7, 2010: “If we only did what we wanted to do, I don’t think we would be happy. I wouldn’t. If all I did was what I wanted to do, I would’ve wasted my life. I don’t mean drugs or alcohol or anything like that. I would’ve just engaged in my fun hobbies — spent today at a camera store, the next day at a stereo store, the next day test out new pens at the pen store. Didn’t I do all that this week? I did.

“I told my stepson the other day, ‘I am a very lazy man who has conquered it, not by changing his nature, by taking on at an early age an enormous number of have-tos. Have-tos have made my life possible. They have brought me the most happiness.”

Said Dennis on his show Dec. 31, 2010: “When you are a public figure, everything you do is scrutinized… I accept it. I try to act honorably at all times. It is doubly triply quadruply true for a public figure who speaks on moral issues because people want you to measure up. There are some who want you to fail…

“I speak to everybody. I am one of the only lecturers I know who stays in almost every instance, I stay until the last person has spoken to me. I often stay for as long after a speech as my speech was just to answer people’s questions.

“I particularly love when young people come to my lectures and particularly love to engage with them.”

“We who engage in ideas ache for the next generation to know of our ideas because then we know they will go on.”

On a radio broadcast to a crowd June 10, 2010, Dennis said: “The single greatest battle I have on a show is not what to say, or what’s in the news, or what if it’s a slow days, it’s not to fool around for three hours. I am the goofiest person you have ever met. It is massive self-control to be as serious as I am for these three hours, and it doesn’t always work, which drives him (producer Allen Estrin) nuts.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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