wasting bandwidth since 1999

Nothing Wasted Here

Tom Lehrer turned 80 last week. If you don’t know that name, then you have not enjoyed one of the truly great satirists of the 20th century.

I have a special place in my warped little brain for Lehrer. We are both math teachers, although there’s really not much to compare since he taught at Harvard and MIT and I certainly did not, but there’s nothing academic about this.

Lehrer’s high place in American geek culture is due to several wonderful recordings he made in the 60’s featuring songs which poked fun at everything from nuclear war to “new math“.

His song The Vatican Rag has been playing in my head this week with the news of the Pope’s visit to Washington all over the news media. I doubt the Catholic church approves but it’s still very funny.

The really unique part of his humor, and something that’s missing from most topical comedians today, is that Lehrer’s work is both intelligent and respectful of the intelligence of his audience.

Start with his album An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer for an excellent introduction to his terrifically warped sense of humor.

So, happy birthday Tom, and thanks for clearly demonstrating the intelligent design connecting science, music, and humor.


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  1. I grew up on Tom Lehrer, and my dad, who had once organized the liturgical music for a major local cathedral, loved “The Vatican Rag.”

    Once he got fed up with the Vatican II masses, we started going to a nice Latin Rite service. To this day, that “commercial” liturgical music that Lehrer made fun of grates on my nerves.

    My good taste is indebted to Lehrer.


  2. I can’t believe he’s 80! Of course, when I stop to think and do the math it is less surprising. I have been listening to him for my entire life, literally (thanks to a dad who loves his stuff) and even have piano books of his music. Poisoning Pigeons in the Park was a favorite of mine as a kid.

  3. Thanks for the post about Tom Lehrer. He reminds me of my dad, who was also a mathematcian. Mr. Lehrer’s song, Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, is especially meaningful because my dad kind of sang like that. I also got into major trouble from a homeless person when I fed the pigeons in New York City. Obviously, this guy considered them nasty creatures and didn’t want anyone to give them cause to stick around.

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