The most shocking thing about Tom Lehrer is the contrast. Here is a man in the 50’s skewering institutions such as the Vatican, the Scouts, and the Army – but all via the Midatlantic voice of a man dressed in a crisp suit and thick-rimmed spectacles. Indeed, it’s no mere act. Dr. Lehrer was a professor of mathematics at both Harvard and MIT. That pedigree helps explain Lehrer’s lyrics: always smart, piercing, and cleverly-constructed. I especially love his unconventional line breaks and rhymes. (Who else would pair Te Deum with ICBM?) But Lehrer is also a talented pianist, inspired by a childhood filled with Cole Porter and Gilbert & Sullivan tunes. (Arguably his biggest claim to fame is a breathless listing of the periodic table of the elements, set to the G&S tune “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General.” So – please enjoy this rousing showstopper, the “happy note” with which Lehrer ended his 1967 concert tour in Norway.
This review originally appeared in the Austin School of Film’s recommendations blog, MIX/VHS. Check out the full post here!