Stop clapping, this is serious

A great interview with Tom Lehrer. Sample quote:

It’s 50 years since Lehrer’s first recordings, and 38 years since his last album of new material, yet word that we’ve secured an interview has people around the office launching into such unlikely yet infectious ditties as The Vatican Rag, Smut and Lehrer’s ode to spring pursuits, Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.

It also has people asking with a surprised tone: “Is he still alive?” Yes, Lehrer is very much with us, despite being quiet for so long (he once told The New York Times he had encouraged rumours of his demise in the hope of cutting down junk mail).

“With audiences nowadays I see it with these late-night [TV show] people, Jay Leno, David Letterman and so on the audience applauds the jokes rather than laughs at them, which is very discouraging.

“Laughter is involuntary. If it’s funny you laugh. But you can easily clap just to say [deadpan]: ‘A ha, that’s funny, I think that’s funny.’ Sometimes they cut to the audience and you can see they are applauding madly. But they’re not laughing.”

Tom Lehrer is one of the funniest people I’ve ever heard. Check him out. Here’s another interview with Lehrer.

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