An autopsy of the three-CD set The Remains of Tom Lehrer shows that beneath the buttoned-down exterior of this present-day UC Santa Cruz mathematics teacher beats the heart of one of the greatest wits of the 20th century. Sure, Sir Noël Coward was literate and clever, but he never wrote rhymes that produced cackles of laughter like Lehrer's Catholic lampoon "The Vatican Rag": "Do whatever steps you want if/you have cleared them with the Pontiff." Writing primarily in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Lehrer came from a school of comedy that couldn't rely on four-letter words to get a laugh, but Lehrer was more fond of funny-sounding nine-letter words anyway. For the censorship-skewering song "Smut," he ingeniously rhymed "philately" with "Lady Chatterley," which winds up loads funnier than any profane take on the subject could ever be. Bolstered by copious liner notes and text from Lehrer and Dr. Demento, this potent box set culls all of the master satirist's popular tunes, including many live recordings spotlighting his turns of phrase and his jolly piano style. Also collected are some recent and unreleased recordings, including some that Lehrer did for the children's television show "The Electric Company." Although the full orchestration on some of the children’s songs occasionally dulls their sparkle, nothing can strip them of the genius Lehrer buried in their words and tunes. As The Remains of Tom Lehrer makes plain, it doesn't take a math whiz to see that the sum of his work adds up to a comic American masterpiece.
The Remains of Tom Lehrer 5 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Does anyone else fantasize that one day he'll pop up again in pop culture (on The Daily Show perhaps?) with an updated version of "George Murphy" rewritten for the Governator? I agree with the above reviewer... for intelligent comedy I'll just have to continue to turn to Eddie Izzard.
More than 1 year ago
You think you know funny? I'll tell you funny. Tom Lehrer. That's funny OK? Still. And he's been dead since Mozart was a boy.