March 31st, 2004

Tom Lehrer is Smug


I've had this asked several times recently so I might as well post it again and try to get the definitive story out and about because it's, well, one of those favorite bedtime stories and since I'm up far past mine, I might as well tell it again. And this time, I have the benefit of being able to tell the story sober.

So picture it: Sicily, 1917. In high school I co-founded and ran a comedy troupe called SPATULA TONIGHT! (The ! on the end was in the name.) It was so named because one of our first sketches performed onstage was a piece written by me and my friend Tom Wills, entitled "Dream of the Spatula King." In it, a bored librarian admits that what he really wanted to be in life was a chef in a greasy spoon diner. The sketch ends with a rousing parody of "Comedy Tonight" only instead of comedy we offered, well, a spatula. ("Eggbeater tomorrow -- spatula tonight!") It's a great song and blessed with a catchy, albeit totally ganked, melody.

So then we fast-forward to my freshman year at UMass where I was given my FIRST-EVER EMAIL ADDRESS EVER that wasn't a lousy bunch of random letters and numbers jumbled altogether. When it came time to pick my username, all the good combinations of my first and last names were taken, so the admin said "Well, pick the first word that comes to mind." So I blurted out -- spatula.

Little did I realize how completely and thoroughly this would shape my eventual online persona. Back then I was known to the MU* communities as either RiffRaff or Beckett, depending on the MU*. Nowadays I look at those names and they seem so foreign to me. Weird, eh? I don't think I've run into anybody who knew me as Beckett in years.

Anyway, a little while later in the winter of '93 I made the acquaintance of Manda Jost, another student at UMass. I don't think I ever actually met her in person, but she randomly talked me one evening (I think the username caught her attention) and we struck up some great conversations. She took to calling me Spatch as it was short for spatula, and I thought it a truly kicky kind of name, so it stuck. Then she went to South America and I never heard from her again. Sniff...

On Usenet, the "tv's" part was added in honor of both "tv's Frank" from Mystery Science Theater 3000 (yes, the "tv's" is always lowercase) and the fact that I was working in public access at the time. "derspatchel" is, then, a nickname-of-a-nickname (derivative, perhaps?) and used here in LJ because the person who took spatch as a username either hasn't updated since 2001 or went friends-only.

So I think that's the definitive version of How Der Spatchel Got His Name.

What's the story behind yours?