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Major General Song

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♫ "Although his brain is smaller than his tiny little penius,
He is the very model of a very stable genius." ♫
"You know, this song is kinda dated. It's supposed to be modern major-general. I'm gonna add a new verse."
Gordon Freeman, Freeman's Mind, Episode 45

The Pirates of Penzance provides a lyric most redoubtable:
The Major General's song therein is reckoned Stock Shout-Out-able,
And Mr. Gilbert's verses, as a vehicle for parody
On many varied themes, are copied with particularity.
To demonstrate the actor's elocution and acuity
In verbalizing twisted lines with perfect perspicuity,
Sir Arthur's tune is catchy, too — though some can't name the latter's song...

(Latter's song? Now that's a tricky rhyme. Hm... Aha!)

It's still become the model of the modern Filk or Patter Song.

It's still become the model of the modern Filk or Patter Song
It's still become the model of the modern Filk or Patter Song
It's still become the model of the modern Filk or Patter Patter Soooooong...

(Okay, that's the last time that's ever gonna happen.)

Because the tune in question is so very recognizable
To make a Trope about it is a project not despisable—
In short, most songs that recreate a patter most ephemeral
Are styled upon the model of the Modern Major General.

In short, most songs that recreate a patter most ephemeral
Are styled upon the model of the Modern Major General.

Although there's one convention operettas deem canonical
In handing out a title for the songs within a chronicle,
And G&S initially obeyed the normal ritual,
They later broke the practice other writers find habitual:

The standard is to designate with lyric in the genesis,
And those who dare to deviate are oft considered menaces.
But Gilbert changed the moniker in Songs of a Savoyard's print...

(Wait. What rhymes with "Savoyard's print?" Uh...)

And thus renamed a song toward which each musical enjoyer'd sprint!

And thus renamed a song toward which each musical enjoyer'd sprint
And thus renamed a song toward which each musical enjoyer'd sprint
And thus renamed a song toward which each musical enjoyer'd enjoyer'd spriiiiiint...

Now, if you wish to find a Trope with noted similarities
Compare this one to Billy Joel and fire non-starting parodies.
But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral
You'll never beat the model of a Modern Major General.

But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral
You'll never beat the model of a Modern Major General.

Performed by Characters:

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  • A GEICO commercial has a guy singing the Major General Song, dressed in costume.

    Audio Plays 

    Fan Works 
  • In The Archmage's Last Bow, the narrator puts together several sentences recreating the structure and rhyme of it to describe Twilight's magical knowledge and intelligence.
  • In chapter 8 of tenner's Doctor Who fanfic, Growing Pains, Doc is captured and experimented on by alien hunters. He fights back by singing this song until they meet his demands. Over and over and over. For days.
  • In Elementals of Harmony, chapter seven has Pinkie Pie sing her own version: "I am the very model of a modern cartoon character." And yes, there is a chorus. Par for the course with ponies, pretty much a hole-in-one with Pinkie.
  • The MLP Loops: Loop 53.3 has Twilight Sparkle singing her own version for her coronation - "I am the very model of a Princess of Equestria". She's apparently been working on it for a while, and is looking for an excuse to do a Bohemian Parody at some point too.
  • In Origin Story, at one point Alex sings the first line of a Major General Song she heard in a YouTube video: "I am the very model of a busty superheroine..." It irritates her because, first, she can't get the tune out of her head, and second, the video, and thus the song, is about Alex herself.

    Films — Animation 


    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of Babylon 5 has Marcus and Franklin taking a long journey to Mars in the cargo hold of a freighter. After Franklin gets tired of playing Something That Begins with "Boring" (it doesn't take long), Marcus starts singing The Major General Song to pass the time. At the end of the episode, he sings the entire song over the credits in place of the normal music. Near the end of the song, you can hear the crew trying to make him stop. No, not the freighter's crew, the production crew.
  • In the Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip episode "The Cold Open", the cast performs a sketch including a parody of the song: "We'll be the very model of a modern network TV show."
  • David Hyde Pierce's monologue, as host of Saturday Night Live, was inspired by this song and "When I Was A Lad" from H.M.S. Pinafore.
  • In the Frasier episode "Fathers and Sons", Frasier, Niles and Leland Barton sing the first verse of the song. Martin tries to join in but confuses the lyrics, singing "awful facts about the scary hippopotamus" (instead of "cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse").
  • In the Mad About You episode "Moody Blues," Paul directs a charity production of Penzance starring his father, Burt, as the Major-General. Parts of rehearsal and performance of the song are shown. When the lyrics slip Burt's mind, he improvises a few lines about his son. During The Tag, Paul and Jamie sing a verse about the show's credit roster ("Now the show is over and you can watch the credits roll").
  • Doctor Cox's "Rant Song" from the Scrubs musical episode was based on the Major General's Song according to the creators.
  • Used for Russian spies' elocution lessons in the Britcom Sleepers.
  • Geordi La Forge sings a few lines of it for Dr. Crusher when she's trying to persuade him to audition for her on-board production.
  • In a more memorable scene from Home Improvement, Al sings the first verse of it in what he thinks is a soundproof booth. It isn't, and as a result, he receives a round of applause when he comes out.
  • In Diagnosis: Murder, Norman Briggs tried out for the role of the Major General, and Dr. Sloan helped him rehearse the Major General song. Briggs ended up playing one of the police officers. Third police officer.
  • The Israeli Channel 10 has suffered for years (since 2008) of financial difficulties that put it under risk of shutting down, which was further exacerbated by their open feud against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as they investigated and reported many of his alleged cases of corruption: Netanyahu went on the offence against the channel, bashing it and threatening to sue for slander and trying to block any government effort to relieve the channel of its debts, and using his own connections in the Ministry of Communications and in the channel itself. When the channel decided to comply and let go of their staunch opposition, they finally got some relief. In response, Israeli satire show Matzàv haUmá featured a song set to this tunenote , starring the main panelists and involving the whole cast and crew as well, saying they got the message and refrain from criticising him. (Eventually the show did have its contract end, supposedly for financial reasons, though critics have suspected foul play; it was later continued, amusingly enough, on Channel 10.)
    We'll be good to Bibi, or we'll live with a sword on our neck:
    Censorship is unpleasant; it's also unpleasant to see a channel close down.
  • In Quiz2020, the miniseries based on the UK's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? "coughing major" scandal, one of the early scenes shows Major Charles Ingram arriving for his first day in a new army desk job, where he tells his new superior officer that he's done a bit of amateur dramatics, at which point the superior starts singing the song, expecting Ingram to join in — which he does with great embarrasment. It then turns into an Overly-Long Gag as the superior officer launches into a second verse, and a third...
  • The Big Bang Theory has a drunken Sheldon sing one about the periodic table of elements during a presentation in "The Pants Alternative".
  • In the second episode of Ghosts (UK), the World War II Captain counters Alison's Ignoring by Singing by singing "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General."
  • The Gillies Report: In "Maralinga, Or Wise After the Event", the ghost of Sir Robert Menzies is summoned to appear before the Royal Commission and sings "I Was the Very Model of a Commonwealth Prime Minister":
    I was the very model of a Commonwealth prime minister
    I never had a single thought original or sinister
    I echoed the opinions of the British with impunity
    And made myself their vassal at the slightest opportunity
  • In the Star Trek: Discovery Short Treks short "Q & A", Number One sings the Major General Song as a demonstration of her Hidden Depths.

  • Wolf 359:
    • In 'Box 953', Lieutenant Commander Minkowski gets completely smashed off of a bad tranquilizer Hilbert gave her and drunkenly recites the entire song.

    Print Media 

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show:
    • The Muppets stages a duet of the song with guest star and comedienne Gilda Radner and a seven-foot tall talking carrot. The scene bears an ironic resemblance to another scene in Pirates, as Radner had requested a six-foot tall talking parrot, but was misheard.
    • In the Award Show episode, Scooter employs the tune to list all of the guest stars that had been on the show.
  • The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre's skit recapping Doctor Who Series 6 ends with a song recapping the season finale to the tune of the Major General's song.

  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who episode Doctor Who and the Pirates, the Sixth Doctor sings a parody entitled "I Am the Very Model of a Gallifreyan Buccaneer."
  • The song has been used as both the lyrics and tune for the game "One Song to the Tune of Another" on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. Memorable examples include Tim Brooke-Taylor singing the words of "Wannabe" to its tune, and Tony Hawks singing its words to the tune of "Mad World" by Gary Jules.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • A short sketch from The Cyanide & Happiness Show has a doctor explain to his patient all of his very serious and chronic health problems to this tune, with the patient happily clapping along. It isn't until the doctor finishes the song that he reads on his notes that the patient is also deaf.

    Web Videos 
  • Barack Obama is the very model of a modern U.S. President
  • Ask a Ninja answers the question "What kind of ninjas are there?" with this catchy little ditty.
  • In Freeman's Mind episode 45, Gordon Freeman sings a good portion of the song while in a firefight, berates his enemies for not singing the chorus ("WHERE'S MY CHORUS?!"), then decides that the song's too dated anyways and begins making up his own verses that pertain to his current situation.
    I can fire at a target and hit it at least half the time
    or graph out an electron path while using only numbers prime
    I calculate the fall rate of a bullet shot a thousand yards
    I perforate the thick heads of a hundred military guards.
    I can make a simulation of an atom bomb and build one too
    Or flank a dozen men and ambush ten of them right out of the blue
    From SMGs to RPGs, I carry quite an arsenal
    And skip around a war zone like a sub-atomic particle.
    STILL NO CHORUS! Okay, come on, sing and I won't kill you! Those of you that are left, I mean...
    Every soldier out here wants to kill me for my curiosity
    I wage war on the whole damn world because of my tenacity
    In matters combat tactical and physics theoretical
    I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
  • When Musical Hell reviewed The Pirate Movie, of course Diva had to end the episode by singing a version of the song!

    Western Animation 


  • Two commercials for vegetarian food company Lightlife parody the tune by singing about how "Lightlife is the model of a modern daily family meal" (or in the BBQ commercial, "a barbecue family meal").

    Fan Works 
  • A Fan-made Sorting Hat song lyrics.
  • "I am the Very Model of a disgruntled Harmonian".
  • With apologies to Neil Gaiman, a version for Vastra from Doctor Who:
    ''I am the very model of a monster-hunter general
    Whether threats are mundane or ethereal or temporal
    Thanks to the aid of my maid I have slayed them with a katana
    And made a vow until I have repaid the debt on my honour
    I'm happy in my scaly skin, and have a tongue that's prehensile
    Though my tastes in sex and sustenance are difficult to reconcile
    For my bedmate and my breakfast are both sentient mammalians
    (Incidentally, while I'm lizardlike, I'm technically not alien)
    I've been told that I should walk the boards and play a Shakespeare vill-i-an
    But Dickens' London is not ready for an actress so reptilian
    It's a shame because the name that I would gain would be the best I can
    Victorian, Silurian, lesbian, and thespian!
  • Discworld's Rincewind is the very model of a coward fleeing gainfully.
  • Friendship Is Optimal: The Law Offices of Artemis, Stella & Beat: Vibrant is the very model of a modern magic unicorn.
  • The fanmade play HMS Dumbledore has Draco Malfoy sing "I am the very model of a future evil overlord".
  • Modern Major Rarity.


    Print Media 
  • The Guardian's environmental page used to have a regular song parody. One of them did the Major-General Song:
    In short, in matters green or with a pan-environmental twist,
    I am the very model of a modern eco-activist.

  • "Please Hello" from Pacific Overtures has the British Captain's part as a parody (all the captains sing in their national "hats").
    "Hello, I come with letters from Her Majesty, Victoria,"
    "Who, hearing how you're trading now, sang Hallelujah, Gloria,"
    "And sent me to convey to you her positive euphoria"
    "As well as little gifts from Britain's various emporia."
  • Dirty Little Showtunes has "I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Homosexual".
  • The biggest irony about parodies of the original song from The Pirates of Penzance is that most speakers who perform parodies really are experts in whatever fields they sing about, unlike the character singing the original, a blowhard who truly knows very little about them.
  • Right Hand Man from Hamilton has George Washington introducing himself in rap as the "model of a modern Major General, the venerated Virginian veteran".

    Video Games 
  • The plot of Iji summarised to the tune of the song: here.
  • Khoodos has performed an eight-minute rendition of all of Pokemon's names from Pokémon to the tune of Tom Lehrer's "The Elements", that being based off of the "Modern Major-General Song".

    Web Animation 
  • Overly Sarcastic Productions produced one for their 5K-subscriber video. Aptly titled the philosopher's song.
    Red: I've read the works of countless ancient grumpy dudes who thought too much.
    Their books as long and laborious as finals week's untimely clutch.
    They all complain of human nature, sovereignty and social class
    and speak with a precision gained by talking strictly out their ass.
  • Let Me Explain Studios' has "I am the Very Model of a YouTube Individual", which is partially a vent about the trials and tribulations which comes with being a successful YouTuber, and partially an affirmation that it's all worth it.
    Rebecca: So be it vlogging, music, gaming, film, or animation
    I'll enjoy the hell out of this job until my cancellation, so
    Even if you think I'm narcissistic, unoriginal
    I am the very model of a YouTube individual!

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 


Modern Game Calamity

Josh rips into everything bad about Sonic '06 through song.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / MajorGeneralSong

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