Laughing Matters — Steve Martin, “Grandmother’s Song”

Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.

I think it’s possible that the first song I ever committed to memory was publicly credited as a songwriting effort of Steve Martin’s mother. Surely other songs before this one were imprinted word for word on my brain (“C is for Cookie,” by sheer repetition, must have lodged in there), but I worked of memorizing “Grandmother’s Song,” repeatedly picking up the tone arm on my junior set record player and moving it back to the start of the track on Let’s Get Small to begin again, trying to perfect the comic timing that came with pivoting hard from the sweetly benign (“Be honest and love all your neighbors”) to the vividly absurd (“Be obsequious, purple, and clairvoyant”).

I’m not sure I ever got the number down to my total satisfaction, but one thing’s certain: I was ready for the singalong.

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