Remembering the Radical and Comedic Abbie Hoffman

To commemorate Hoffman, we went into the archive and pulled some of our best clips that illustrate Hoffman's sense of humor, creativity, and dedication to the fight for human rights. 

After the recent death of Paul Krassner, we have been thinking back on our friends and their lasting impact on the world today. 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of Abbie Hoffman’s death, a close friend and collaborator of Krassner’s. He was an activist, comedian, and revolutionary who spoke out against the world’s injustices in ways that grabbed the media’s attention. He cofounded the Youth International Party (known as “Yippies”), he wrote several books such as Steal This Book, Revolution for the hell of it, and Woodstock Nation, and he performed protests that some called “guerrilla theatre.” Just one example is his attempt to levitate the Pentagon with the help of 50,000 antiwar protestors. It didn’t work. He also jumped onstage during The Who’s performance at Woodstock to protest the arrest of John Sinclair. Peter Townshend was’t happy and supposedly hit him with a guitar.

To commemorate Hoffman, we went into the archive and pulled some of our best clips that illustrate Hoffman’s sense of humor, creativity, and dedication to the fight for human rights. 

Hoffman Doing Head Stand During the Chicago Conspiracy Trial

Hoffman and seven others were indicted and tried for conspiracy and inciting violence during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. During the trial, Hoffman performed several antics to capture the attention of the media. One such antic was doing a head stand on a table to distract the media from a key witness’s testimony. This is just one example of Hoffman’s creative manipulation of the media and how he knew just what to do to grab their attention.

This video is from the documentary, Tales of Hoffman: Abbie And Julius And The Chicago Conspiracy Trial, which was produced by Matthew Palm and Tom Weinberg.

The Power of Television

In this interview, done right before Hoffman’s death, Hoffman speaks about the power and influence of TV, particularly in its ability to play out our fantasies.

This video was included in The 90’s pilot episode. The footage was provided by the Media Process Group.

“There’s a difference between saying you’ve found god and that you know his address.”

In this third clip, Abbie responds to Rennie Davis, a co-defendant who later became a worshipper of Guru Maharaji.

In the 1970s, something new came to the United States: the Divine Light Movement, a cult-like new age group, led by sixteen-year-old Guru Maharaj Ji. He attracted the attention of Davis, an anti-war activist. Davis and Abbie Hoffman were two of the Chicago Eight who were tried in the Chicago Conspiracy trail. But after finding Guru Mahari Ji, Davis turned to spirituality as a vehicle for change. In this video, he says that the DLM has helped him realize that what’s he doing now is what he’s always wanted to do. Davis became a spokesperson for the guru, attracting a lot of media attention to the Millennium ’73 event in Houston.

Abbie Hoffman comments on Davis’ newfound dedication to the sixteen-year-old leader. As he’s shown footage of Davis’ interview, Hoffman laughs and calls Davis arrogant and a propagandist for thinking that he actually knows who God is.

The television documentary was produced by TVTV (Hudson Marquez, Allen Rucker, Michael Shamberg, Tom Weinberg, and Megan Williams) as a production of TV Lab at WNET. It won the prestigious duPont-Columbia University award for outstanding documentary. 

Making Gefilte Fish with Abbie

Hoffman wasn’t just an activist. He also was known for his award-winning gefilte fish. This video from 1973 documents the extensive process of making the dish, from slicing a pound of onions to grinding the fish, as well as interviews with Hoffman talking about when he offered Dr. Spock gefilte fish.

Video by Laura Cavestani, Frank Cavestani and David Schweitzer.

Watch more Abbie Hoffman footage on Media Burn.


1 Comment

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Abbie Hoffman was a genius. We need more activists leaders with brains and characters such as his, in today’s age.

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