Quotes (20)

  • It is a sobering thought that when Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years.
  • I have always found it interesting... that there are people who regard copyright infringement as a form of flattery.
  • Irreverence is easy - what's hard is wit.
  • I've occasionally heard that I was kicked out [of Harvard] for being a Communist, for dealing drugs, for corrupting minors, or for diverse other infractions of local decorum. Unfortunately, none of these rumours are true. The one I've heard more often is that I am dead. That one I encouraged, hoping it would cut down on the junk mail. It didn't.
  • The nature of forbidden words has certainly changed. For example, when I was in college, there were certain words you couldn't say in front of a girl. Now you can say them, but you can't say "girl".
  • [From interview with Barry Hansen, aka Dr. Demento, c. 1990s]: I never had the temperament of a performer. For example, I do not require anonymous affection, such as that manifested by the applause of large groups of strangers. (I love it when they buy the records, however.) Moreover, I always considered myself a writer rather than a performer. I didn't relish the prospect of doing pretty much the same show night after night, any more than a novelist would enjoy reading his book aloud every night. I wanted to do the songs only until I was satisfied with the performance and then record them. I wanted the audience to leave thinking "Weren't those songs funny?", whereas most, if not all, comedians want them to leave thinking "Wasn't he (or she) funny?" As for stopping writing, it used to be that if an idea came to me, I'd write, and if it didn't, I wouldn't -- and, gradually, the second condition prevailed over the first. I didn't regard it as a problem. Occasionally people ask, "If you enjoyed it" (and I did) "why don't you do it again?" I reply, "I enjoyed high school, but I certainly wouldn't want to do that again".
  • If a person feels he can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up.
  • I did rather well myself this past Christmas. The nicest present I received was a gift certificate good in any hospital for a lobotomy. How thoughtful.
  • [on why he never married]: I have a notoriously short attention span. I can barely concentrate on (the 8-hour stage production) 'Nicholas Nickleby', let alone sustain a relationship.
  • I know some people feel that marriage as an institution is dying out, but I disagree and the point was driven home to me rather forcefully not long ago by a letter I received which said: "Darling, I love you and I cannot live without you. Marry me, or I will kill myself". Well, I was a little disturbed at that until I took another look at the envelope and saw that it was addressed to 'occupant'.
  • Well, what I like to do on formal occasions like this is to take some of the various types of songs that we all know and presumably love and, as it were, to kick them when they're down. I find that if you take the various popular song forms to their logical extremes, you can arrive at almost anything from the ridiculous to the obscene or, as they say in New York, sophisticated.
  • Political satire became obsolete when they awarded Henry Kissinger the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • I went from adolescence to senility, trying to bypass maturity.
  • Plagiarise / Plagiarise / Let no-one else's work / Evade your eyes
  • Life is like a sewer: what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.
  • The first thing is to get the idea for the song, then to get the title, or the ending or something. To begin a song is not hard, it's where you're going to end. You gotta have the joke at the end. So it was mainly getting the idea and deciding what form it would be in, a waltz or a tango, or whatever, and then plugging away at it.
  • [on lyrics] I think the construction part, how to say it, the logical mind, the precision, is the same that's involved in math, and I guess in music too. It's gotta come out right. It's like a puzzle to write a song. The idea of fitting all the pieces so it exactly comes right, the right word at the end of the sentence, and the rhyme goes there and not there. The outrageousness gets you hooked, but then the perfected songcraft, the wedding of lyric to tune, and the fact that every line has some nice wordplay in it - never wastes a line. That keeps you coming back.
  • In the fifties, everybody agreed. Adlai Stevenson was good, lynching was bad. Life was much easier. Now [2000] you can make certain obvious jokes, but I can't think how you do a song. Monica Lewinsky is easy. I don't know how you make jokes about Sierra Leone, or Rwanda, or Ireland, or stuff that's really going on in the world.
  • [on performing for royalty] There was a line for the Queen to come round and shake everyone's hand. She wore gloves, of course - you never know where these actors have been. She came around, 'Nice to see you, thank you for coming'. And Prince Philip also shakes your hand, at a discreet distance of course from the Queen. And he said 'Poisoning Pigeons in the Park' gave us a lot of pleasure. We used to play that'. I asked Princess Margaret, 'What does Her Majesty think of the record?' And she said, 'Oh, she thinks it's horrid. She leaves the room when we put it on'.
  • The whole idea that freedom of speech means you can say 'fuck' on television is an anathema to me. That's not what freedom of speech is about. It's about saying stuff. Now that you can say anything, why don't you? But they don't.