Saturday, August 13, 2016

A writer's pet peeve (the writer being me)

WARNING: This is one of my cranky rants about nothing but I'm compelled to complain about anyway.  (Andy Rooney lives.)

It drives me nuts when I’m at a concert and in the middle of a song the performer breaks the mood to introduce somebody or do a joke. The songwriters worked hard to craft a song that had a certain story or evoked a certain emotion, and the singer destroys it by blurting out “my new CD is in the lobby!” or "on piano -- the King Kong of the Keyboards -- Mr. Lester Spork!"

A prime offender of this was Sinatra during the ring-a-ding Rat Pack era. No one was ever better at interpreting songs than Frank Sinatra.  Yet put him on stage with a drink in his hand and he suddenly became the Kingfish. He’d respectfully credit the songwriter then in the middle of “Eb Tide” break into an Amos & Andy voice and slander Sammy Davis.

Sure you should introduce your band and backup singers and fog machine operator but not in the middle of “Unchained Melody.”  Lyrics are not just words you sing between racial slurs. 

What if actors followed this practice during plays.


George: You can sit around with the gin running out of your mouth; you can humiliate me; you can tear me to pieces all night, that's perfectly okay, that's all right.

Martha: You can stand it!

George: I cannot stand it!

Martha: You can stand it, you married me for it! Ladies and gentlemen, Buster Ignatz, our Art Director!


Hamlet: In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
The graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead
How about these costumes? Ladies and gentlemen, Ruth Schmegegy and the gals from the shop!
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.

The television equivalent is Pop-Up videos. As an “experiment” they employed them one time during an episode of ABC’s SABRINA THE TEEN WITCH.

Sabrina: Aunt Hilda, I’ve done all I can do, period.

BLIP: Melissa Joan Hart’s first period came six days after her 13th birthday.

And it extends even beyond TV. This is a true story.  I was at a bachelor party for a member of CHEERS.

Two women strippers were engaging in some very fine girl-on-girl action when one turned to us and said, “So you guys write CHEERS? How does that work? Does one person write the whole script or do you each take characters…?”  Needless to say, all the flags were lowered to half-mast.

Anyway, you get the idea. Just sing the song. Or suckle her breasts. Again, it’s a matter of respect for the writers.  Thank you.


This is a repost from five years ago.  I'm still ranting.


Gary said...

I've read that when Dean Martin performed in Las Vegas he would never sing an entire song straight through without joking around. Apparently he would tell the audience "If you want to hear the whole song, buy the record!" (In his defense, Dino actually was funny, while Sinatra certainly was not.)

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

At least they weren't asking you to read one of their scripts.

Rashad Khan said...

It remains a mystery to me as to why many men find "girl-on-girl action" exciting. And yes, I'm a guy.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

...uh, I recommend that we all stay off Ken's lawn until this passes...

:) :) :)

BA said...

I remember Rick Derringer at a "blues festival" playing his Hit part way through, then vamping through a sales pitch for his new cd. Almost like PBS interrupting an opera ten minutes in to say they're broke and need money1

Eric J said...

I know what you mean, Ken. It used to annoy me no end when DJs would talk over the first 30 seconds of a song. Or break in just before the song ended. Good rant.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Well, I'll just get right to it. Ken, were you ever kicked by an actor/director?

J Lee said...

Singers breaking from the song to do something else may be linked to what you said in Friday's answers on why shows go into decline:

After awhile your cast starts getting bored playing the same characters and you can see that in their performance.

I suspect for the singers, if they're doing a concert every night or two on the road or two shows nightly in Vegas, interrupting the song becomes no big deal because they've sung the thing so many damned times and they're bored with singing it straight through again. So ad-libbing introductions or sticking a sales pitch into the middle of the thing is the way to keep up their own interest.

Obviously, if you're the poor schlub who just shelled out $200-$500 for two tickets to hear the signer/band whose music you love, you don't want to hear about the keyboardist they love or a Ron Popeil-like infomercial in the middle of the number. But if the singer is successful enough he/she doesn't have to care what you think, and you're only recourse is to know going in your featured artist might not stick to what you're paying him to do.

Paul Duca said...

Was Phoef Sutton at that party? His typical expression looks like he just heard that stripper's comment.

Lou H. said...

Just think if they did this with product placement on TV shows. Imagine this moment on BONES:

Daisy: Why do you drive a minivan? Do you have kids that we don’t know about?
Angela: I’m an artist, Daisy, and the Sienna has plenty of room, plus I stink at parallel parking and that back-up camera thing is like the invention of the century.

Oh, wait. That really happened.

qdpsteve said...

LOL. Just wait 'til this trend of interrupting comes to... the medication commercials on TV we've all had to suffer through:

"I had so many worries about my flop sweat dysfunction until my doctor recommended Supercalifragilistimab. And now let's hear it for the prop director who stuck me in this cool canoe!!" :-P

wallymarcel1 said...

My guess is that because they were completely bored with their act they assumed the audience was too.

d said...

"So you girls are strippers. How does that work? Do you get tipped more if a customer soils their underwear during a lap dance? Did you go to college for this job? How do you deal with getting a guy off when you feel he's repulsive?"

D. McEwan said...

Oops. The comment by "d" is by me.

Phil In Phoenix said...

When I was a kid, my parents took my sisters and I to see "Hello Dolly" starring Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway.

Part way thru the big finale, Ms. Bailey stopped the show dead in its tracks and made a joke. She then proceeded to do about 15 minutes just being Pearl Bailey; telling stories, talking with audience members, and even getting Cab Calloway to do a little bit of "Minnie The Moocher".

The audience loved it! The cast seemed to enjoy it. And Pearl Bailey seemed to be having genuine fun.

When she was done, she looked around the stage at the cast and said, "Alright, where were we?" And BOOM, back to the number.

Sure, it was planned. But it came off as spontaneous and it might not have been quite the same each performance. And it was a highlight of a show full of highlights.

I saw the second to last performance Frank, Dean and Sammy did together. Sammy opened in a solo set, followed by Dean's solo set. After intermission, Frank performed solo. Then the last half-hour or so was all three on stage together, delivering the Rat Pack shtick. But they all got to do their most popular songs interruption free.

Cap'n Bob said...

I couldn't agree more, Ken. The performers have to remember that the audience--and have I mentioned my novel, LOVE, DEATH, AND THE TOYMAN, by Robert S. Napier--is available on Amazon for only $3.00 (Kindle edition)--hasn't heard this song 500 times.

Michael Ryan said...


I normally agree with you on everything...except this. When you listen to or see old videos of Sinatra and the Rat Pack, those ad libs and that off the cuff energy was part of the magic of those people, those shows and that era. And from where I sit, these guys were always at the party that I wanted to be at. Remember, it's a cuckoo world, man...let's grab some chicks and fly all night long.

Unkystan said...

This is exactly the reason I hate concert albums. I could listen to Sinatra or Streisand, etc., studio recordings all day but then some of the live "ad-lib" or just talking stuff can be cringe worthy...and we have to listen to it every time. And (referring back to the "Hello Dolly!"/Pearl Bailey story)I saw Zero Mostel in "Fiddler". What should have been a magical night was ruined by Zero stopping the show, looking out into the audience, pointed to some random person and asked how she got such a good seat. The audience thought this was hilarious but for me and my date the show was over. I heard that Zero would pull this kind of stuff often after he got bored with a role. I saw Danny Kaye (in "Two By Two") pull this same crap.

Sam the Bard said...

The stripper(s) incident sounds somewhat similar to what happened at Frasier Crane's bachelor party when the stripper turned out to be one of his patients. And if I'm not mistaken, did't Ken Levine & David Isaacs write that episode? I couldn't help but wonder if it's just a coincidence or if the real-life bachelor party incident was inspiration for that scene. Regardless of what inspired it, that is an absolute classic. The "everybody have fun tonight. Everybody...Wang Chung tonight" Frasier entrance still gets me every time, even all these years later.