“Seltzer Boy”

Speaking of Jewish humor, those of a certain age will remember Allan Sherman, the parody songwriter and Jewish comedian. My parents had his albums when I was a kid.  Here’s my favorite of his songs: “Seltzer Boy”, which, as YouTube notes, is

Allan Sherman’s great 1962 Jewish parody of folk singer Odetta’s recording of the African-American “Water Boy,” which she performed in concert with Harry Belafonte in 1960.

This is sheer genius:

Don’t bring me water
I rather have seltzer,
‘Cause water don’t bubble
And water don’t fizz;
Water I hate it
‘Cause it ain’t carbonated,
But a glass of seltzer
On the other hand is.
There’s something about that last line, and the words “on the other hand”, that crack me up.

Addendum: Someone said it’s funnier if you know the original. Well, here it is, by Odetta:

20 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 4, 2018 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    That is clever writing!

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 4, 2018 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Glad to see he finally escaped Camp Granada.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 4, 2018 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    The ur-Weird Al Yankovic.

    I had an album of Mr. Sherman’s as a kid.

  4. DrBeydon
    Posted June 4, 2018 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    I find parodies like this are much funnier if you know the original. Ken mentions Weird Al. I think his “Yoda” funnier for knowing “Lola” first. Or Chicago’s own Steve Dahl’s “Ayatollah” for “My Sharona.” I don’t know “Water Boy,” but “The Dance of the Hours” is one of my favorite pieces of light classical music, and “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadda” is awesome.

  5. LB
    Posted June 4, 2018 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    My father had a number of his albums and we loved to listen to them. I’d totally forgotten this one!! Thank you for reminding me. 🙂

  6. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 4, 2018 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Is it “I” or “I’d”?

    I think “I’d rather” works better…

    • Posted June 4, 2018 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

      I hear it as “I”.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 4, 2018 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

        Grammatically should be “I’d” but the ‘d’ is hard to pronounce and, if emphasised, ends up either as an awkward catch in the rhythm, or else as “I drather”, so Sherman’s mild transgression is legitimate. IMO.

        cr

  7. busterggi
    Posted June 4, 2018 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m fonder of God Test Ye Murray Gittleman and My Zelda,

    • John Frum
      Posted June 5, 2018 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      At catholic school we used to say “Hail Mary, full of grapes…” until the brother realised and caned the lot of us.
      Still worth it.

  8. Posted June 4, 2018 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    I’m literally drinking Perrier at this very moment (and typing with one hand so it is literally literally true).

  9. Posted June 5, 2018 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    Amusing…. but for Jewish musical satirists nobody, and I mean absolutely NOBODY can match the breadth and intellectual depth of the great Tom Lehrer

  10. Posted June 5, 2018 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Mentioning those Belafonte concerts reminds me of “The Ballad of Sigmund Freud” sung by the Chad Mitchell Trio. The lyrics struck a chord with a young social science enthusiast half a century ago:

    “It all started in Vienna not so many years ago
    When not enough of folks were getting sick
    Then a starving young physician tried to better his position
    By discovering what made his patients tick

    He forgot about sclerosis and invented the psychosis
    And a hundred ways that sex could be enjoyed
    He adopted as his credo “down repression of libido!”
    And that was the start of Doctor Sigmund Freud

    Well, Doctor Freud, oh Doctor Freud
    How we wish you had been differently employed
    But the set of circumstances
    Still enhances the finances
    of the followers of Doctor Sigmund Freud

    Well, he analyzed the dreams of the teens and libertines
    Substituted monologue for pills
    He drew crowds just like Will Sadler
    When along came Jung and Adler
    And they said by God, there’s gold in them darn’ ills!

    They encountered no resistance
    When they served as Freud’s assistants
    As with ego and with id they deftly toyed
    But instead of toting bedpans
    They wore analytic deadpans
    Those ambitious doctors Adler, Jung and Freud!

    Well, Doctor Freud, oh Doctor Freud
    How we wish you had been differently employed
    But the set of circumstances
    Still enhances the finances
    of the followers of Doctor Sigmund Freud

    Now the big three have departed
    But not so the code the started
    No, it’s being carried on by a goodly band
    And to trauma shock and force us
    Someone’s gone and added Rorschach
    And the whole thing’s got completely out of hand!

    So old boys with double chinsies
    And a thousand would-be Kinseys
    They discuss it at the drop of a repression
    And I wouldn’t be complaining
    But for all the loot I’m paying
    Just to lie on someone’s couch and say confession!

    Well, Doctor Freud, goes marchin’ in!
    How we wish you had been differently employed
    But the set of circumstances
    Still enhances the finances
    of the followers of Doctor Sigmund Freud
    But the set of circumstances
    Still enhances the finances
    of the followers of Doctor Sigmund Freud”

    • Posted June 5, 2018 at 5:49 am | Permalink

      This is rather long; can you just give a link to the lyrics next time? Thanks.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted June 5, 2018 at 6:39 am | Permalink

        It is long

        BUT

        Lyrics websites … I mean, have you seen any? They are awful.

        I request an excepofor lyrics. I posted lyrics here before that were long but the site source was probably terrible to touch and look at.

        • Posted June 5, 2018 at 6:52 am | Permalink

          Before I pushed the button, I didn’t really remember how much of it there is, with the refrain and all 🙂 But you are right about those sites in general.

  11. Lurker111
    Posted June 5, 2018 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Sherman was great at this. On his albums, he tried hard to use only Public Domain melodies, but in the pre-Internet age, he nailed himself twice and had to settle, once for “My Zelda” and another time for “Seltzer Boy” (if memory serves).

    My favorites include “My Zelda,” “Al and Yetta,” “The Ballad of Harry Lewis” (classic!), “The Bronx Bird Watcher” and “Shake Hands with Your Uncle Max.”

    Oh! And how could I omit the inimitable “The Streets of Miami”?!

  12. Posted June 5, 2018 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadda” was a hit even here in Australia. Sherman was funny.


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