s skippy the bush kangaroo

skippy the bush kangaroo

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

doin' the vatican rag

kudos to the biomes blog for finding mike stanfill's flash animation of "the elements" by tom lehrer.

mike is kind enough to link us to all of mr. lehrer's recordings (all six of them) available at amazon.com.

for those of you who think adam sandler is funny, we can inform you that tom lehrer was a mathematics professor at, among other two-bit schools, wellsley, mit and harvard, back in the 50's.

for some unknown but wonderful reason, prof. lehrer decided to try his hand at writing and performing socially satirical songs. for a brief period in the late 50's and early 60's, he turned out some wonderfully wacky and terribly astute original pieces about the politics and social mores of the day.

for you kids out there, you may be familar with tom's later work on the electric company: "who can turn a can into a cane? who can turn a pan, into a pane? it's elementary, it's silent e!"

he was a staple on the political satire show that was the week that was, sort of a weekly "the daily show," only with less smarminess.

for reasons as known as those concerning why he began a career as a comic singer, he ended it, leaving us with only a few recordings of hilarity.

perhaps the songs don't stand up as well today. however, with the idea of nuclear terrorism and religious pomposity shoved in our faces so much, we'd wager his hit "we'll all go together when we go" still would resonate with today's audiences. and let's not forget the dahmer-prescient "i hold your hand in mine," which echoes hannibal lechter many years before thomas cook even thought of him.

but for our money, lehrer's masterpiece was "the vatican rag," a comic take on the catholic church's attempt to modernize its canon, and thus encourage more people to attend services:

first you get down on your knees,
fiddle with your rosaries,
bow your head with great respect,
and genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

do whatever steps you want if
you have cleared them with the pontiff.
everybody say his own
kyrie eleison,
doin' the vatican rag….

make a cross on your abdomen,
when in rome do like a roman;
ave maria,
gee, it's good to see ya.
gettin' ecstatic an' sorta dramatic an'
doin' the vatican rag!

for those interested in ancient history, mr. lehrer's stuff is still available on amazon. and mike stanfill's page tells us all proceeds from the sales of mr. lehrer's cd's and books will go to progressive site, such as moveon, doctors without borders and the aclu.

who knew he was even still alive?
posted by skippy at 6:25 PM |


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