Tony Hendra is sporting enormous, tinted aviator glasses that conceal a good half of his face. He says it’s because he often gets waylaid in the street by people who Recognize him as the sleazy band manager in the movie This Is Spinal Tap. But another possibility, far more fun to consider, is that he’s hiding out from William Bennett.
Why would the politically conservative former secretary of education and author of The Book of Virtues be miffed at this actor/writer/humorist? Hendra has just penned The Book of Bad Virtues, a spirited takeoff on Bennett’s book that pokes fun at literary institutions from the Brothers Grimm to Plato. Declares Hendra: ”(It’s) a satirical answer to the hypocritical nature of The Book of Virtues, which presents itself as a definitive canon for all good little children to read but is in fact a feel-good book for right-wingers.”
That said, Hendra doesn’t believe his book is bound for the left wing’s (reading list either: ”Liberals who have definite sympathies with things like Native American literature might not like it. There are prudes on both sides.”
Hendra is a former editor of The National Lampoon and has authored parodies of such sacred texts as the Bible and The New York Times. Still, writing the ”Blasphemy” chapter of the book was hard for Hendra, who once studied to be a Benedictine monk. ”I had to do a great deal of self-examination (for) that.” The rest — like a parody in which Mr. Owl eats Thumper — came easily for this hedonist. (Hendra smokes cigars, writes about wine, and is the nutritionally incorrect voice on TV Food Network’s news show.) ”It’s fun being bad,” he states — and then you notice his tie with teddy bears in airplanes holding balloons. ”These?” exclaims Hendra. ”They’re teddy bears…committing suicide, hanging themselves from balloons.”