Although probably best known to modern audiences as the singer of "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp Granada)", Allan Sherman (born Allan Copelon, November 30, 1924 – November 20, 1973) was a prodigious talent who started working in the entertainment industry in the late 1940s and kept going strong until his death from emphysema at age 48.
In the course of his career, Sherman turned his hand to scriptwriting, creating, producing and even acting (including a turn as the voice of the Cat of the Hat in the 1971 animated adaptation of the famous Dr. Seuss book).
With Albert Hague, he cowrote the 1969 Broadway musical The Fig Leaves Are Falling, which is notable for two things: the Broadway debut of David Cassidy (later of The Partridge Family), and closing after only four performances. He also guest-hosted The Tonight Show on several occasions, including the night Bill Cosby made his first appearance on the show; he would later be credited as co-producer on Cosby's first three albums for Warner Bros. Records.
He was also the author of several books, including the infamous comic novel The Rape of the A*P*E (American Puritan Ethic). He made his greatest impact on TV as creator of I've Got a Secret and as the producer of The Jackie Gleason Show, but it was his numerous albums of song parodies (starting with My Son, The Folk Singer in 1963) that made him a household name in the 1960s.
A fair selection of his work can be found with a simple YouTube search.
Tropes present in Sherman's work:
- Anti-Christmas Song: A variation: "The Twelve Gifts of Christmas", which replaces the traditional calling birds, turtledoves, etc. with various schlocky items, including, among other things, a pair of teakwood shower clogs, an indoor plastic birdbath, and a Japanese transistor radio.
- Been There, Shaped History: "Good Advice" depicts him having a direct hand in numerous inventions (the elevator, the model T, the wheel!) and scientific discoveries (Benjamin Franklin harnessing electricity, Sir Isaac Newton discovering gravity, Freudian psychology) by giving their creators, well, good advice. It gets subverted in the last verse, where he tells Christopher Columbus to sail west instead of east and sends him plummeting off the edge of the earth.Well, that was...
Bad advice! Bad advice!
Bad advice is just the same as good advice.
Everybody makes occasional mistakes,
And that was bad... ad... VICE!
- Big Eater
You had for breakfast two pounds bacon,
- Mrs. Goldfarb, in "Grow Mrs. Goldfarb", especially this one line:
Three dozen eggs, one coffee cake, and
Then you had something really awful:
Four kippered herrings on a waffle,
Nine English muffins, one baked apple,
Boston cream pie, Philadelphia scrapple,
Seventeen bowls of Crispy Crunch,
Then you said, "What's for lunch?"
"So I would clean the place, four, five, six times a day, because somehow I felt that that would keep the children from starving in Europe. But I was wrong: they kept starving, and I got fat!"
- His spoken-word piece "Hail To Thee, Fat Person" is about how his mother turned him into one by telling him to "Clean [his] place, because children are starving in Europe!"
- Disproportionate Retribution: Streets of Miami is about a lawyer getting into a gunfight to the death with his partner for criticizing his taste in hotels ("I'm going to the Fontainebleu. Pardner, it's moderner.").
- Early Installment Weirdness: His debut single from 1951, "Jake's Song"/"A Satchel and a Seck", is more overtly Jewish-themed than his later material, with Sherman singing in a Yiddish accent and throwing in Yiddish words.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: The last line of "One Hippopotami":With someone you adore,
If you should find romance,
You'll pant, then pant once more
And that's! A! Pair! Of! PANTS!!
- Japanese Ranguage: Parodied at the end of "Lotsa Luck":When you buy a tape recorder of the automatic kind,
Lotsa luck, pal, lotsa luck.
If it's simplified for folks who aren't mechanically inclined,
Lotsa luck, pal, lotsa luck.
There's a small instruction booklet that's a hundred pages long,
And on page one, you get stuck.
It says, "If unsatisfactory,
You must bring this to the factory,"
But the factory's in Japan,
So rotsa ruck!
- Key Under the Doormat: Mentioned by Queen Elizabeth in "Won't You Come Home, Disraeli":Now don't leave me flat,
The key to the palace is under the mat.
- Know Your Vines: Just one of the many hazards of life in Camp Granada as described in "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)":I went hiking with Joe Spivey
He developed poison ivy
- Long List:
- "Shake Hands with your Uncle Max" and "Sarah Jockman" both have sections with obscenely long lists of relatives.
- "Hungarian Goulash #5" depicts goulash as containing meat from a long list of species, from mutton to kangaroo to soylent.
- New Sound Album: 1967's Togetherness was his first album not recorded in front of a live audience. It also proved to be his final album.
- Race Lift/ Setting Update: Many of his songs take old folk songs and update them to reflect the mid-20th century American (often specifically Jewish-American) experience.
- Song Parody
- Spiritual Successor: Not surprisingly, Sherman was a huge influence on (and frequently compared to) "Weird Al" Yankovic.
- Stepford Suburbia: "Here's to the Crabgrass".
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: As heard in his parody of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" in "Shticks and Stones":I'm Melvin Rose of Texas
And my friends all call me Tex
When I lived in old New Mexico
They used to call me Mex
When I lived in old Kentucky
They called me Old Kentuck
I was born in old Shamokin
Which is why they call me Melvin Rose
- Went to the Great X in the Sky: How "The Streets of Miami" ends: the Disproportionate Retribution above results in the gunman who killed his associate being forced to leave Miami, never to return, to avoid mob justice. He complains that New York is so cold that a person could die and winds up envying his murdered colleague, because "he's in that big Fontainebleu in the sky."
- You Have to Have Jews: Given his Jewish background, Allan enjoys making all manner of Jewish references in his songs.