Review Revue: An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer


I have no idea what this album from 1959 was doing being added to the KCMU library in 1990, but I’m sure glad it was – and it seems like I would have been in good company at the time. Tom Lehrer is (and let me just jump in for a second to say how happy it makes me to type that “is,” having established that Mr. Lehrer seems to be alive and well and probably cracking people up at age 87) a musical/lyrical/satirical genius and mathematician, well known for his cleverly hilarious songs on topics political, social, scientifical, and mathematical. I know that he’s not for everyone – as the comments below attest – but I happen to come from a Lehrerian household (it’s entirely possible that my mom was in the audience for the performance captured on this record, although she probably would have mentioned it), and I’m smiling right now as I hear his breezily sardonic voice in my head.

If you’re not familiar with Mr. Lehrer, do yourself a favor and listen to a track or three from this album while you read. Try “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park,” “The Vatican Rag,” or “We Will All Go Together When We Go,” for starters.

“‘We Will All Go Together’ – a song for our times??”

“Humor’s a personal thing – me? I find him obvious and unbearably sophomoric. His singing annoys the hell out of me, too.”

“Recorded 1959 but has aged remarkably well. This is classic comedy, probably the inspiration for Mark Russell’s pale imitation. This is witty and intellectual, but still very pithy in places. ‘Bright College Days’ is a Harvard Man’s parody of the Yale Song, and ‘The Elements‘ are atomic elements (as of 1959) done to a Gilbert and Sullivan tune.”

“‘We Will All Go Together…’ is a brilliant ‘post-nuclear’ spritual. Elements: voice, piano, live audience. TRY THIS!”

“We also have his LP ‘That Was the Year That Was’ in Library. Check it out!”

“This guy really is pretty damn funny, and more memorable and worthwhile than William S. Burroughs’ recordings, I say. Well, some of it is, anyway.”

“As funny as anything ever was until Fawlty Towers came along. He now teaches math at Berkeley. If this is a re-issue, can we H it like we did Funkadelic?”

“This stuff annoys the bee-jeezus out of me! Aaaaahh!”

“Lighten up, dude!”

“What does make you laugh, anyway?”

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