The purpose of satire, it has been rightly said, is to strip away the blanket of comforting illusion and cozy half-truth with which we surround ourselves. And our job, as I see it, is to put it back again.
— Michael Flanders At The Drop Of Another Hat
Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, who co-wrote and performed comic songs in the 1950s and 1960s. Unusually for the time neither performer stood during their shows, Swann being seated at the piano and Flanders confined to a wheelchair by polio (contracted in service during World War 2
The two began their musical careers together at school but were drawn apart on the outbreak of the war. A chance meeting in 1948 led them to begin writing comic songs for other performers to sing before they decided to start performing for themselves in a show titled At The Drop Of A Hat
. After touring worldwide they returned to Britain to open their new show At The Drop Of Another Hat
and recorded a number of songs not heard in either show.
In 1967 they ceased touring together but remained friends until Flanders' death in 1975.
Their works provide examples of:
- Affectionate Parody: Many of their songs use this trope, and recently they have become subject to one themselves by Armstrong And Miller.
- All Are Equal in Death: "Twenty Tons of TNT"
- Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better: "Sounding Brass"
- Audience Participation: "The Hippopotamus"
Flanders: And tonight, by way of encouragement attendants will be passing among you. With rawhide whips.
- Baths Are Fun: "In the Bath"
- Bilingual Bonus: "Je suis le Tenebreux" sung by Swann, is a genuinely moving French poem set to music with none of the comedy that the performance implied from the reaction to the line "I think translation rather spoils it."
- Black Comedy Rape: "Madeira, M'Dear" and "Philological Waltz"
- The Bore: "The Boar"
- But Liquor Is Quicker: "Have Some Madeira, M'Dear"
- Days of the Week Song: "The Gasman Cometh"
- Disaster Dominoes: "The Gasman Cometh"
- Father, I Don't Want To Fight: "The Reluctant Cannibal"
- He Also Did: Donald Swann, working alone, produced an album of music from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and became good friends with Tolkien himself.
- Here We Go Again: "The Gasman Cometh" and "A Song of the Weather"
- His Name Really Is Barkeep: From "Greensleeves":
He sent for a playwright friend of his and he said to him "Look, kid.." (audience laughs)
That was his name: Kyd
- Hurricane of Puns: "Greensleeves"
- I'm a Humanitarian: "The Reluctant Cannibal"
- Least Rhymable Word:
We were never able to come up with a rhyme for "Khrushchev" until he'd gone: "Did he fall, or was he pusch off?"
- Life of the Party: "Twice Shy"
- Listing Cities: "Slow Train", which specifically lists British cities whose rail services and lines had been closed by the Beeching Axe starting in 1963, to cut the heavy financial losses incurred by the UK's railways.
- Multipurpose Monocultured Crop: "The Wompom" is about the world's most miraculous, all-purpose plant.
- Napoleon Delusion: "The Elephant"
- Overly-Long Gag: "In the Desert" and "Kokoraki"
Swann: I omitted eight verses!
- Patriotic Fervour: "A Song of Patriotic Prejudice" is an Affectionate Parody.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: "Misalliance" (The tragic tale of the right-handed Honeysuckle and the left-handed Bindweed.)
- Thrifty Scot: Possibly the least insulting stereotype used in "A Song of Patriotic Prejudice" (although the word they use is 'cheap').
- Translation: Yes: "Songs For Our Time"
- Weird Trade Union: "Bedstead Men" (or possibly it's a Weird Secret Society)
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: "The Spider"
- With Lyrics: "Ill Wind"
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: "Greensleeves"