christine~ (eppylover) wrote in tomlehrer,

Long-Lost Interview/Web Chat?

Found while doing my daily obligatory search for Lehrer bits:
...Tom Lehrer, during an online interview with Rhino Records, was informed that George Carlin claimed there was no rhyme for "nostril." Another questioner suggested incorrectly that "wastrel" rhymed with "nostril." Lehrer responded thusly:
Anyone from here to Gloucester'll
Tell you there's no rhyme for 'nostril.'
(P.S.: No one but a mere imposter'll
Claim that 'wastrel' rhymes with 'nostril.').
In response to a request for a rhyme for "orange," Lehrer wrote:
Eating an orange
While making love
Makes for bizarre enj-
Oyment thereof.
(He added a note that different people pronounce "orange" differently, and thus that the above doesn't rhyme for everyone.)
Just thought you'd find the above slightly amusing. I love that he rhymes "orange" with "arre enj"

The above 17 January 1999 excerpt was found in [ THIS ] online interview ~~ but the original post on the Rhino site has long since been deleted ~ wiped off the face of the innertubes!

However, upon digging further, I discovered this fascinating original Rhino interview had been archived on "The Wayback Machine" at!

Within this transcript, you will be happy to see that the Master confirms for us a few "rumors."

I now copy/paste it for you ~


Transcript of Chat at Rocky's
June 17, 1997

Rocky Rhino: Hello, and welcome to Rocky's Chat Room! Our guest tonight is Tom Lehrer, the master of song satire. It's his first-ever online chat, and the subject is Rhino's new Songs & More Songs By Tom Lehrer compilation.

We have a packed room with lots of great questions already posted, so let's get right to them and answer as many as time permits.

Guest: Mr. Lehrer, do you know if Prof. Ramsey of Harvard still has a copy of "The Physical Review" on tape?
Tom: Yes, Prof. Ramsey, the Nobel Prize-winning professor from Harvard does have a copy. He made the recording on a wire recorder. The sound is terrible.
Guest: Are you still teaching at U.C. Santa Cruz?
Tom: Yes, I am but only in the winter quarter.
I'm teaching mathematics but for some time I taught a course in musical theater. tom lehrer cover
Guest: Tom, why the new CD after so long?
Tom: You'll have to ask Rhino about that, it was their idea.
Rocky Rhino: It was way overdue, if you ask us Lehrer-philes here.
Guest: Who do you think is the sharpest political satirist working today?
Tom: I don't know of any who are working at it full time but I would include some works by Randy Newman and John Forster. Oh, and The Simpsons.
Guest: Would Dr. Lehrer consider a doctoral duet with Hunter S. Thompson?
Tom: I have no objection but I am not a doctor. Neither is he, for that matter!
Guest: Are you performing at all?
Tom: I have not performed in public for money since 1967 nor free since 1972.
Guest: Are you planning on writing a new verse for "The Elements"?
Tom: There aren't enough new elements yet to add a verse and scientists don't even agree on the names. However, when they do, I'll try.
Guest: How about the Tom Lehrer websites? Have you checked them out?
Tom: I have never checked them out myself since I am not on the Internet but judging by some of the garbage people have sent, excuse me, I mean some of the information people have sent me, they think the idea is to be interesting rather than truthful.
Guest: What's the most controversial song you've ever recorded?
Tom: I suppose it is "The Vatican Rag" 'cause some people think it's sacrilegious, but I don't. However, if you think it is sacrilegious, that's fine with me because I think all religion is nonsense.
Actually, Randy Newman has a better word on his recording of "Faust" but I don't think I can say it on the Net.
Guest: Is it true that you stopped performing due to a lawsuit?
Tom: No, it is not true. That's an example of the type of information referred to before as garbage.
Guest: What is your favorite memory of That Was The Week That Was?
Tom: I never appeared on the program myself and I never even met any of the people, but the thing I most remember is how they would remove the best line from the song because it was supposed to be satiric, but not offensive, which is a contradiction in terms.
Guest: Are you ever going to write new material?
Tom: I occassionally write a song for some special purpose but I have no plans to write the kind of songs I used. If I ever get an idea for one, however, I will.
Guest: Why do you think your music has endured for so long?
Tom: I think there is a lingering desire for literacy and I pride myself on being literate to the point of pretentiousness. I still say "whom" a lot. Why say "since" when you can say "inasmuchas"?
A current production of Tomfoolery describes the show as "containing adult language," and this is the first time that I've heard that phrase used correctly. It is usually used to mean adolescent inarticulate language; that is to say, using naughty words to compensate for a lack of intellectual content.
Guest: Are you a fan of "Weird Al" Yankovic?
Tom: Definitely. He called me a little while ago and I was delighted. I particularly enjoyed his movie UHF.
Guest: May I blame you for becoming a grammarian after watching The Electric Company?
Tom: I don't deserve blame but I am happy to accept it!
Comments Does any recording of Tomfoolery exist on CD? I've never heard anything except "I Got It From Agnes."
Tom: It was released on LP in England -- the original cast version -- but never on CD. However, apart from "I Got It From Agnes" it contains no songs that I haven't recorded.
Guest: Did you know Steve Sondheim when you went to camp together?
Tom: Yes, I knew him in the years 1937-1939, however, I was two years older than he was and still am and a ten-year-old young man does not buddy with an eight-year-old kid. I would like to add that he is the greatest lyricist that the English language has ever produced. That is a fact, not an opinion.
Guest: Are you not a fan of organized religion in general and are you a "spiritual" person?
Tom: I believe I already answered that, I am not a fan of any organized religion. I think it is all "bullshit," to quote Randy Newman.
Guest: What do you think about the "War on Drugs" and why don't you write a song about it?
Tom: I feel since most harmful drugs are now legal, such as alcohol, nicotine and prescription drugs, I think they should all be legal, but I can't write a funny song about that because I see the other side.
Guest: (20:29 EST): Why did you make the transition from sick/funny to political satire?
Tom: That really had to do with the program That Was The Week That Was. I would watch it and say, "I can do as well as that." And that was sufficient inspiration.
Guest: Have you ever married and if not why? Unless your heart was stolen by Alma?
Tom: No, I have never married. I've simply skipped a few divorces. Unfortunately, Alma was taken and taken and taken and taken by the time I got there.
Guest: Are you a fan of Gilbert & Sullivan? And if so, what's your favorite?
Tom: Yes, I grew up on G&S. I know practically all their songs and I don't have a favorite. I would say G&S and Danny Kaye and Noel Coward are my primary influences.
Guest: Is it true that you once staged a Druid ritual around the World Tree sculpture in Cambridge?
Tom: Yes. Some friends of mine and I had a ceremony around the sculpture known as the World Tree on Arbor Day in 1951. I am part Druid myself and was trying to capture my roots.
Guest: Which of your songs was the most difficult to perfect?
Tom: Obviously, "The Elements" because it took a long time first to find the tune, and second to order them so they would rhyme.
Guest: Are you a fan of The Animaniacs?
Tom: Yes!! I listen to them when I can. I think they're marvelous. But they're no Simpsons.
Guest: Were you ever acquainted with Isaac Asimov?
Tom: I met him a few times and was flattered by his compliments in his books.
Guest: What was the inspiration for "Poisoning Pigeons In The Park"?
Tom: My contempt for pigeons. Some people think they are birds; that is a misapprehension.
Guest: Have you seen the episode of Chicago Hope where Dr. Geiger sings "Poisoning Pigeons In The Park"?
Tom: Yes, it was very exciting to hear the great Mandy Patinkin sing my song, as it had been when David Kelley the producer also included some of my songs on Picket Fences.
Guest: George Carlin claims that there is no word that rhymes with nostril? Care to try?
Tom: I can't do it spontaneously but you can be sure that I will try.
Rocky Rhino: And Tom's a man of his word! He just sent this in via fax: "Anyone from here to Gloucester'll/Tell you there's no rhyme for 'nostril.' (P.S.: No one but a mere imposter'll/Claim that 'wastrel' rhymes with 'nostril.').
Guest: Have you ever been harassed or under surveillance by the FBI?
Tom: Neither of those verbs apply but I was certainly investigated because I had a security clearance when I was in the Army, working at the National Security Agency.
Guest: What was your inspiration for "The Masochism Tango"?
Tom: Very specifically, it was a song called "Kiss Of Fire" sung by Tony Martin. My song took that song to its logical extreme and beyond.
Guest: Are you the inventor of the vodka shot jello?
Tom: I can't help wondering who wrote that question. "Yes" is the answer. I was co-inventor and it was while I was in the Army and we wanted to have a party in the office but alcoholic beverages were not allowed. So we had to come up with another method of ingestion.
Guest: I understood that you left school. When did you get your Ph.D?
Tom: I never got a PhD. I wanted to be a graduate student all my life and they wanted me to be a Ph.D. These two goals were incompatable.
Guest: Have you ever smoked marijuana and if so, do you feel it impacted your creativity?
Tom: I have never used an illegal drug in my life. Also, I have never told a lie.
Guest: Other than the piano and the human brain, what other instruments do you play?
Tom: None.
Guest: Was there a real "Henry"?
Tom: That was the result of an accidental typing error. I looked at it and laughed.
Guest: If you, Anna Russell, and Victor Borge all duked it out to be Ruler of the World, who would win?
Tom: As an admirer of both of them, I think we could successfully form a junta and rule the world together.
Guest: What do you do with class clowns in your classes?
Tom: I don't have any in my classes. They don't last long.
Comments: Hi, Rocky here. We have time for just one more question.
Guest: Your pianomanship is supurb. What sort of music studies did you do?
Tom: Everything about me is superb. I can't help it. On my passport, under occupation, they put "Living Legend"!
Rocky Rhino: For those of you with any doubt, refer to Songs & More Songs By Tom Lehrer!
Thank you, Tom, and everyone in the chat room, for joining us. It was a lot of fun! Chat with you next time!
Tom: Thank you all. It was my first time and I'll always remember it. Thanks for being gentle!


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