Tom Lehrer is devastatingly witty. He’s right up there with my idols, Dorothy Parker, Mel Brooks, and George S. Kaufman. He is (was? He hasn’t written in decades, though he lives on) one of the most gifted comedic lyricists of our time and our parents’ time, too. One of the reasons his work so speaks to me is that I’ve written quite a number of parodies over the years, and I’m in the throes of one now. It’s not turning out to be an easy birth. (They rarely are.) This clever, clever man has inspired me to press on.
I don’t want to spoil for you all the wonders that await you in this Buzzfeed article (I know, Buzzfeed is typically more for soundbites than true writing, but it really is an article, and not badly written, at that!). Let me just give you a taste of the brilliant mad man that is Tom Lehrer. He wrote a “Dissertation on Education” for his application to college. It worked, by the way. Here is the last stanza:
“But although I detest
Learning poems and the rest
Of the things one must know to have ‘culture,’
While each of my teachers
Makes speeches like preachers
And preys on my faults like a vulture,
I will leave movie thrillers
And watch caterpillars
Get born and pupated and larva’ed,
And I’ll work like a slave
And always behave
And maybe I’ll get into Harvard…”
I don’t generally link to Buzzfeed, but they did such a nifty job on this article about Lehrer, I thought I’d share.
If you listen to nothing else of his, please oh please listen to this song. It’s seriously funny!