It's just this little chromium switch, here... (derspatchel) wrote,
It's just this little chromium switch, here...

this one works better if you know the theme in question

I was watching the excellent documentary "Smothered!" which recounts the rise and fall of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and CBS' attempts to censor the material on the show (some of which nowadays is incredibly benign, such as a humorous Biblical sermonette about what animal really swallowed Jonah, or a dippy flower child giving household tips on how to "get rid of roaches", you know, the kind of thing that really threw the Establishment for a loop back then.) And when they played the little doot doodly-doo Smothers Brothers theme song, I suddenly remembered one of the hands-down funniest jokes my mom and I ever shared.

When I was around 11 or 12, my dad, who is a minister, had approached me for doing something special for an upcoming Children's Sunday service. As I was playing piano whenever I could, he suggested I could play something like Stairway to Heaven on the church organ for the prelude. Yes, for serious.

Now keep in mind my Dad's a pretty progressive man, and an idea like this is par for the course for him, and he really was proud that his progeny was not only talented on the keys (I learned all the stuff I played by myself and can't sight-read sheet music but hey) but also had excellent taste in music. Even so, I was 12 years old and completely petrified about performing anything in public, and I also knew my talent at playing Stairway wasn't exactly up to Page and Plant's standards. Or Mitch Miller's, for that matter. Or Bobby Hurklen Plays The Favorites On His Magical Hammond B3.

So I found myself complaining about this to Mom (who'd divorced my dad in '76) and she sympathized. "Your dad's always coming up with crazy ideas like that," she said. "But you know what you should do -- you should agree to do it, but then on the day of the service, go in and play something else, like the Smothers Brothers theme."

I chortled and was kinda surprised -- this was the woman who'd forbade me from listening to the Dr. Demento Show on the grounds that it was making me far more sarcastic than I needed to be. [0] But suddenly she was acting as the subversive voice of the parodyist. There she was, sitting at the piano with me, miming hitting the keys and singing the theme with a doofy voice.

"Doodle doot-doo doo-doo! CHILDREN'S SUNDAY! Doodle doot-doo doodly-doo! HIYA FOLKS! Doodle doot-doo doo-doo! AND HERE HE IS Doodle doot doot -- MY DAD!"

We worked out five or six verses that included hints like "Don't drink all the communion wine!" and "The silent prayer stays silent!" and all sorts of stuff. And by the end of it we were laughing and snorting and giggling at a shared mockery, a conspiratorial parody and a cathartic way for me to stop worrying about having to play in front of a large congregation. Somehow I could sense my mom's frustration with my father for his goofy ideas, and her love for a good joke, and the fact that even after all those years she still knew what he was all about. That's stuck with me, though I couldn't begin to understand it completely.

I didn't end up playing any song, by the by. I told Dad I didn't want to and he respected that decision. Though I do admit that after several church services, if the organist said it was OK, I'd slip back into the empty sanctuary and rock that house.

[0] It's true. The decision to revoke my listening privileges came after we'd gone out for a weekend to the beach, and I came back having written a lovely poem that began with "The beach, the beach is a wonderful place / Where you go and get sand kicked in your face." Now I maintain my privileges should've been revoked for such misuse of meter, but it was my Mom's judgement that my sense of sarcasm needed to be tempered. I don't think it was, though, and I'm glad for that.

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