Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Off Topic: My Culturally Illiterate Son: A Comedy For Three Players

Billy Crystal has a joke about growing older. He says that he knew he was getting old when his daughter came to him and asked him "Is it true that Paul McCartney was in another group before Wings?" My son, who in many respects is culturally ignorant, provided just such a moment for me. He is the first player in this comedy.

The second player is the cartoon series Animaniacs. For those not in the know, Animaniacs was a cartoon series created by Warner Brothers that premiered about thirteen years ago. Animaniacs was one of those rare cartoons that appealed to adults and children. It relied on the rich history and tradition of the Warner Brothers cartoons, was smart and had jokes that crossed generational lines. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it back in 1993. Naturally, when the first 25 episodes became available on DVD this year, I bought the set.

One aspect of the show is that it is heavy on music and parody. One of the parodies that is done is of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance." The famous song "I Am The Model Of A Modern Major-General" is redone by Yakko Warner as "I Am The Very Model Of A Cartoon Individual."

The third player in our comedy of errors is Mr. Tom Lehrer. Tom Lehrer was a comedian-musician/mathematics professor (you don't see that combination very often!) who put out several comedy albums in the 1950s and 1960s. He's best known for his satire and wicked sense of humor. His most famous number is probably "Poisioning Pigeons In The Park." Another well-known number of his is "The Elements" where he sings the names of the chemical elements. He introduces the piece by saying that the song is sung to a "possibly recognizable tune." The tune that he uses is that of the Major-General song.

So, on Friday, I was listening to Tom Lehrer while cleaning up the house for Shabbos and my son hears him say that the next piece is set to a "possibly recognizable tune." After the song is finished my son turns to me and asks:

"Is the reason he said it's 'possibly recognizable' because he copied it from Animaniacs?"

Eeees and I couldn't stop laughing for at least ten minutes.

The Wolf


Anonymous said...

I always considered Tom Lehrer's best known song to be National Brotherhood Week.

"Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics/ and the Catholics hate the Protestants/ and the Hindus hate the Moslems/ and everybody hates the Jews"

BrooklynWolf said...

I think (and it's only my opinion) that most people *today* come to know of Tom Lehrer through Dr. Demento - and, as such, the first song they probably heard of his was Poisioning Pigeons in the Park.

However, I love "National Brotherhood Week" as well.

By the way, did you really have to be anonymous for this comment? Did you think that perhaps the members of the Poisioning Pigeons In The Park Fan Club were going to hunt you down? :)

The Wolf

Larry Lennhoff said...

I see he's growing up with the proper sense of history for a yeshiva education - time is all one great mishmash because nothing ever changes anyway. :>)

I'm glad you're raising him with exposure to at least some of the classics - have you started him on Allen Sherman yet?

BrooklynWolf said...

I have one Allan Sherman album at home. However, I don't listen to him all that often. I find that he doesn't age as well as Tom Lehrer does -- even though most of Lehrer's stuff is dated (as opposed to Sherman's).

The Wolf

M-n said...

How many frum kids have said something to the effect of "Hey! He stole that from Country Yossi?" :-)

Neil Harris said...

Great post. Kids are funny. I was making breakfast on Labor Day and playing the Rabbis Sons. My almost 7 yr old came in the kitchen, listened for a minute and said, "Abba, these guys good. But, they obviously have never heard of Piamenta."

Anonymous said...

Count me in as one of the culturally ignorant. I don't know a single reference and the post lost me. My Yeshiva educated husband, however, would understand each reference.

Hila said...

ROFLOL!!!! It's funny because I didn't realize how popular Tom Lehrer was/is!!! My Dad had a couple of his albums and I remember when I was younger he would always play them when we took family roadtrips, along with a favorite Scandinavian fellow of ours, Stan Boreson (I realize probably no one else has heard of him outside of the Scandinavian community, but trust me, his parodies are funny!)

Good post! I enjoyed it, and I think I am going to go dig up those Lehrer albums now :-)


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