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Trivia / Tom Lehrer

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  • Big Name Fan: Daniel Radcliffe is a huge fan of his works and can recite the entirety of "The Elements" from memory.
  • Creator Backlash:
    • One of the reasons he retired was that he grew to despise touring to perform his songs.
    • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time to him, back in his youth, to write "The Old Dope Peddler"; in later years he would call it "chilling".
    • He has also developed a different perspective now on "When You Are Old and Gray".
  • Creator Breakdown:
    • The reason he stopped doing political satire was apparently because the politicians became too corrupt. He abandoned his singing career before Richard Nixon was even President, and things haven't gotten better...
      Lehrer: I don't want to satirize George [W.] Bush and his puppeteers. I want to vaporize them.
    • That's part of the reason, but not the entire reason. There's also the fact that the political issues of later eras became much more complex, and it's hard to get good laughs out of a song that presents both sides of the issue. Here's a piece that has a lot more elaboration from Lehrer. That said, the devolution of politics certainly has not made Lehrer any more enthusiastic about the idea of writing music.
      • When an Australian magazine published an interview they conducted with Lehrer in 2003, the same interview in which he stated his desire to vaporize George W. Bush and his puppeteers, he later remarked,
        Lehrer: Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
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    • According to the preface of one of his songbooks, "Well-wishers...are constantly suggesting hilarious subject matter, such as the Vietnam War, the gradual destruction of the environment, our recent presidents, etc. so that I have often felt like a resident of Pompeii who has been asked for some humorous comments on lava."
    • Some do, however, hold out hope, that if PBS makes another educational children's show a-la The Electric Company (1971) or Square One Television, Lehrer might agree to contribute a few televisual tutorial tunes for tots.
    • As mentioned above, he also strongly disliked touring.
  • He Also Did: Self-proclaimed inventor of the Jello shot, which he created as a way to get around liquor restriction on his military base.
  • Reclusive Artist: Firmly retired to a life in academia, but has been willing enough to do the occasional interview over the years.
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  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: He's been falsely proclaimed dead by so many news articles that he keeps a scrapbook of newspaper and magazine clippings naming him "the late Tom Lehrer."
  • So My Kids Can Watch: Not literally, since he never had children, but his songs for The Electric Company were in this vein. In later years he was amused by the fact that his college students weren't aware of his satirical songs but were really impressed when they found out he was the guy who sang "Silent E".
  • Unintentional Period Piece:
    • Since they were based on current events, the songs on That Was the Year That Was are this to varying degrees. His song intros provide most of the background, but the lyrics still slip in references here-and-there that might not be so obvious to modern listeners, like the mention of Sheriff Jim Clark (the orchestrator of the Bloody Sunday attacks in Selma, Alabama) in "National Brotherhood Week".
    • "New Math" fits this twice over. The "new math" the song is poking fun at faced massive backlash and was quickly abandoned. Moreover, the one part of it that Lehrer chose to specifically pick apart for the song just so happened to be the one part of "new math" that actually stuck around, leaving most modern listeners to have no idea why he's presenting a perfectly normal subtraction problem in a tone that suggests you're supposed to find it silly.
    • The version of "That's Mathematics" featured on The Remains of Tom Lehrer box set edits out the verse about Andrew Wiles solving Fermat's Last Theorem to avoid this.

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