Happy Birthday, Tom Lehrer

Man could tickle those ivories, too.

Man could tickle those ivories, too.

Tom Lehrer is a ripe old 81 today, although that mind is probably still whip-crack smart. One of the first and most popular musical satirists, along with contemporaries like Mort Sahl he was among the new wave of intellectual comedians, although Tom did it best with song rather than story. It would be tough to draw a line back from any satirist, whether a political pundit (i.e. Bill Maher) or ribald songman (Stephen Lynch) without intersecting Lehrer somewhere along the way. Mark Russell might have been more political, Steve Allen more broad; Tom Lehrer was probably your ideal bridge between Mad Magazine and adulthood.

Tom Lehrer’s website.

For those old enough to remember, I’m preaching to the choir, of course. But a generation (or two?) who have grown up laughing at SNL’s Weekend Update (or the latest incarnation, Best Week Ever) might want to check out That Was The Week That Was, featuring a brilliant cast and group of writers (including Monty Python members and even writer Roald Dahl!). As always, an American version was adopted and the names involved are stunners – everyone from Woody Allen and Nichols & May to Gene HackmanBuck Henry and Alan Alda. Lehrer wrote satirical songs for the show, and a collection of them were released after the show left the air. That’s about when I discovered him and realized he was much funnier than the Allan Shermans of the world (no slight on Sherman – Lehrer is sharper than most). Literate and witty – imagine that – a deadly combination.

Happy Birthday, sir!

...and not a bad time to be getting on board, either.

Poisoning Pigeons In The Park

The Masochism Tango

The Vatican Rag



Filed under Comedy, Features and Interviews, Film/TV

2 responses to “Happy Birthday, Tom Lehrer

  1. Pete Bennett

    thanks for that, just what I was looking for

  2. Happy Birthday to Tom. I met him when he was teaching math at UC Santa Cruz and I was an second BA student in physics there. A friend of mine and I started a dinner/lecture group at Crown College and we invited Tom to be our first speaker of the year, which he accepted. I discussed with Tom his selection of a topic and we settled on a broad introduction to musicals. The evening was a great success and got us off to a nice start.

    I became homeless soon after that, due to my mental illness, and ran into Tom as he was coming out of Reading International in Harvard Square. Tom recognized me and we exchanged a quick warm hello. I didn’t say I was homeless, so he probably never knew of that. It was a major help for me as a homeless to have such a moment of colleageship, even though it was just for a moment. Now I’m living in senior housing in Chicago and am doing art, for which my website is jamesbatek.com.

    Again, Happy Birthday, Tom.

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