Friday, March 02, 2007

Rachmaninov had Big Hands

As a teen, I was a big fan of Peter Schickele ("PDQ Bach") and Victor Borge, who both took classical music as the starting point for great comedy. Instead of attending our senior prom, my best girl friend (as opposed to "girlfriend") and I drove into the big city to see Borge perform, a date that turned out to be much more memorable than standing paralyzed against the wall of my high school gym would've been.

I think three things made Schickele and Borge "work" comedically: first was the mix of highbrow and lowbrow in their performances--the juxtaposition of guys in tuxes making funny noises, doing slapstick, and not taking the sometimes grim world of classical music at all seriously. Second was the fact that, despite the fun, they were fine musicians with genuine respect and affection for the art they lampooned. Third, I suppose, was the sense among audience members that we were part of an in-group that got the gags; in retrospect, I'm sure that was a big part of their appeal to Teenage-Me (it's probably no coincidence that the same girl friend was a fellow Monty Python fan as well).

Which is my prelude to this YouTube clip, which introduced me to a couple of guys skillfully mining the same musical-comedy vein. It's only 2:39 long, and I guarantee at least a smile.


Mike said...

I was always a huge Victor Borge fan -- in part because his dry delivery and the twinkle in his eye reminded me of my grandfather Peterson. But these guys were worth the laugh even without that background. They also bring to mind the Times Square Two (hmmm -- no response in Google, am I remembering the name wrong?) who did a two-men-playing-one-guitar bit.

This is good stuff. Thanks!

Mike Lynch said...

"Double-U, double-ph, F!!!"

When I was a kid, I had this one Peter Schickele P.D.Q. Bach REPORT FROM HOOPLE album I played all the time, causing parental units to scratch their heads. Weird to think I would wind up drawing cartoons for BBC MUSIC and doing the cover & illustrations for CLASSICAL MUSIC FOR BEGINNERS many years later.

Hey -- let's not forget his score to SILENT RUNNING!

Not bad for a boy from Ames, Iowa!!!

-- Mike (from Iowa City)

Otis Frampton said...

I first encountered PDQ Back in high school choir. We did "Throw The Yule Log On Uncle John" for Christmas one year. I don't think my choir teacher got it, I think she just found it a charming little Christmas song.