David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Politics, Practical Jokes

Politics

• Back in 1956, when Yugoslavia was under the control of the dictator Josef Broz Tito, a Yugoslav consul-general confessed to theatrical guru Danny Newman that he never missed a performance at the Chicago Civic Opera by the baritone Tito Gobbi. Mr. Newman said that he understood that because Mr. Gobbi was a truly great baritone, but the consul-general replied, “Yes, but that’s not the real reason I love him so much. You see, Mr. Newman, Yugoslavia is a communist country and not very popular here. So your Civic Opera House is the only place in this country where I can publicly yell my head off with “BRAVO, Tito! BRAVO, Tito!”

• Tom Morello, the Harvard-educated (in political science) musician in Rage Against the Machine, once worked a day job as the late California Democratic Senator Alan Cranston’s scheduling secretary, a position in which he worked mostly at raising money. One day, a crying woman called the Senator’s office to complain about Mexicans moving into her neighborhood. He called the woman a racist, and he told her to go to h*ll, remarks for which he got into trouble. Mr. Morello says, “That’s when I realized, if in my job I can’t tell a racist to go to h*ll, I’m not in the right job.”

Practical Jokes

• In 2008, a practical joke called “rickrolling” arrived on the Internet. In rickrolling, Internet users are promised one thing, but given something else. For example, someone might search for “Keira Knightley upskirt photo” — I am not making this up — and when they click on the link hoping to see a Keira Knightley panty shot, they are instead linked to a videoclip of Rick Astley singing the song “Never Gonna Give You Up,” a song the writer of this book likes a lot. Of course, people may wonder, Why Rick Astley? Aren’t there worse singers and worse songs from the 1980s? Writer Alexis Petridis wonders why “Let’s All Chant,” by a couple of British radio personalities named Pat and Mick isn’t used in this kind of practical joke. The song was so bad that the names “Pat and Mick” were used in cockney rhyming slang in which a word or phrase that rhymes is used instead of the regular word. Instead of saying, “That lager made me sick,” slangsters said, “That lager made me Pat and Mick.”

• Steve Pollak, an elementary schoolteacher, member of the Phish, and songwriter of “Suzy Greenberg,” has perhaps the best-ever rock-and-roll nickname. In 1982, he was attending a boarding school, Taft, which inhabited a 220-acre tract in Watertown, Connecticut. One wild night, he donned orange goggles and a tapestry and started spouting the wisdom of the ages — or what a sophomore considered to be the wisdom of the ages — to a group of stoned friends, who promptly dubbed him the “Dude of Life,” a nickname that stuck. The Dude was known for his antics on stage; for example, he threw rubber chickens from the stage to the fans. The rubber chickens bore handwritten messages from members of the band. One rubber chicken bore the message, “One day I’ll have such an orgasm that my…(To be continued on next bird).”

• Jazz violinist Joe Venuti used to go out with his bassist, Irving Edelman, and eat Italian food with him after they had finished performing. He also played a practical joke on Mr. Edelman by putting a little bag of sand in his bass after each performance, so that the bass got heavier and heavier. Mr. Venuti didn’t explain the joke until Mr. Edelman came to him and said that he was going to quit because all the Italian food he had been eating had caught up to him and it was getting too difficult for him to carry his bass.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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