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.