Posted by: Liza Rosenberg | September 11, 2007

"Ready, aim, sing!"*

As you’ve probably guessed by now, my sense of humor is often rather quirky and off-beat. I appreciate intelligent, wry commentary, and would be lying if I didn’t say that one of my favorite pastimes is exchanging clever, witty banter with friends online, either via email or using any one of my growing collection of chat applications. The writer in me enjoys using words this way, and I find myself drawn to people who can keep up the pace. Words are both magical and powerful, and there are few things that attract my attention more than people who know how to use them well, especially if the words make me laugh and think, and allow for an ongoing exchange in the same vein.

I’ve had (and continue to have) friendships and relationships that began as a result of my admiration for an individual’s writing skills, though obviously, the relationships, as they grew, were not solely based on this one trait. When it comes to entertainment, I tend to prefer high-brow stand-up comedy. Low-brow, lewd, sex jokes do not impress me, nor does the gratuitous use of swearing, for despite the fact that I can and do curse like a truck driver under certain circumstances, if you look carefully through this blog, you will find very few such words among my entries. It’s not my style, and it’s not the way that I choose to communicate while writing. As in my friendships, I gravitate towards performers who make me think as well as laugh, and if they can intelligently incorporate current events into the act, then so much the better. And because I’m sure that you’re dying to know, yes, I do have a favorite. While not a stand-up comedian in the traditional sense, this individual’s talent for side-splittingly humorous commentary is unparalleled.

Given my addiction to passion for current events and politics, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I would gravitate towards the material of the incredibly talented Tom Lehrer. His songs are timeless, and I sometimes find it rather shocking that lyrics he wrote in the early 1960s are just as relevant today as when they were originally written. I can’t decide if that says more about his uncanny understanding of popular culture or the sadly predictable state of the world. I think I wore out my copy of “That Was the Year That Was“, a live album released in 1965, and favorite tunes include “National Brotherhood Week” (a toe-tapping ditty about race relations), “MLF Lullaby” (a charming little tune about the Multilateral Forces), “Smut” (“I do have a cause, though. It is ‘obscenity’. I’m for it…”) and “Vatican Rag” (everything you wanted to know about Catholicism but were afraid to ask…). While I’m not going to link to all the songs on the album, if you’re up for a laugh, I’d strongly recommend taking a glance at all of his lyrics, which can be found on this website. There are also clips for many of the songs on YouTube, which are definitely worth checking out.

As I mentioned above, many of his tunes are still relevant today, whether it be “So Long, Mom” (about a young soldier going off to fight in World War 3) or “Who’s Next” (a song about the nuclear arms race). Check out the clip below for a spot-on assessment of American foreign policy.

(Lyrics for all Tom Lehrer songs can be found here.)

If you’d like to listen to “This Was the Year that Was” in full, some kind soul has been thoughtful enough to upload it to YouTube in sections:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five (contains only “Vatican Rag”)

Disclaimer: Drinking liquids is not recommended while listening to Tom Lehrer. If you choose to do so, it is at your own risk. Your snarfing is not my responsibility.

*The title of this post is the last line of the Tom Lehrer song “Folk Song Army“.

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Responses

  1. still chuckling after a dose of National Brotherhood Week. Thanks for the links! What a creative man.


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