Saturday, December 31, 2016

Simps Never Met A Formidable Thought He Wouldn't Mock Stupidly

In response to Steve Simels' rather stupid remark  "as bad as Nickleback is, they never wrote a song with as lame a metaphor as "Send in the Clowns,"  someone who would like not to be named gave me this quote from Stephen Sondheim, proving  "send in the clowns" isn't a metaphor.

"I get a lot of letters over the years asking what the title means and what the song's about; I never thought it would be in any way esoteric. I wanted to use theatrical imagery in the song, because she's an actress, but it's not supposed to be a circus,,,, It's a theater reference meaning "if the show isn't going well, let's send in the clowns"; in other words, "let's do the jokes." I always want to know, when I'm writing a song, what the end is going to be, so "Send in the Clowns" didn't settle in until I got the notion, "Don't bother, they're here", which means that "We are the fools."

Of course you have to know the story the song is set in, what the aging actress Desirée is singing about to her old lover who just dashed her hopes of finally being with him, even though he said he was in love with her, passing that up for his ridiculous celibate marriage to a teenage girl (who is eloping with his son).  I don't think the song works to its full potential except in the context of the story.  The same is true for just about every great opera aria ever written.  You can take a piece out of the whole but it won't have the same value as it does in context.  It certainly doesn't mean the same thing when Frank Sinatra sang it.  Or the young Judy Collins, when she had a hit with it.

If you're as ignorant as that as the remark would appear to indicate, of course you're going to mistake it as a lame metaphor.  It's kind of funny that someone who likes to brag about his degree in and alleged expertise in things theatrical wouldn't know that.

Thinking about the plot of the original movie it's based on,  Smiles of a Summer Evening and of the musical, t's all tied in the beginning when Desirée's mother, Madame Armfeldt tells her young granddaughter Fredrika that the summer night smiles three times, on the young, on the foolish and on the old and her granddaughter says she wants to see it.   Desirée, in her song identifies herself and her old lover as the fools, the clowns, independent of that.  I think Simp's problem is it's too complex, too intricate, too deep, too beautiful and too inspired for silly, superficial people whose attention span might extend to an extended play pop song but not to mature musical theater.  Of course it's not realistic but hardly any theater is, it has to tell you something real in way too short a time.   That is if it aspires to something more than just mindless diversion.

The same commentator reminds me that the song was first written - masterfully written - for the vocal abilities of Glynis Jones, who originated the role in the musical.

The form of the song is probably too complex for people with attention issues, as well.

Update:  I'm shown a link at which Simps is trying to pass off Stephen Sondheim's quote as my words over at Duncan's Geritol Bar.  While bragging about his obviously worthless degree in theater arts.  The "Brain Trust" being what it is I'll bet they've fallen for it.

Now, if I were to use that in the Simpian manner I'd say that he's saying he knows more about theater than Stephen Sondheim whose honors and awards include:

Hutchinson Prize for Music Composition (1950)
Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1983)
Kennedy Center Honors, Lifetime Achievement (1993)
Algur H. Meadows Award from Southern Methodist University (1994)
Special Laurence Olivier Award (2011) "in recognition of his contribution to London theatre"
Critics' Circle Theatre Award (March 2012): According to drama section chair Mark Shenton, "what is effectively a lifetime achievement award"
Member of the American Theater Hall of Fame (2014)
Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Sunday in the Park with George (1985)
Academy Award for Best Song: "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" from Dick Tracy (1990)
Grammy Awards
Company (Best Score from an Original Cast Album, 1970)
A Little Night Music (Best Score from an Original Cast Album, 1973)
"Send in the Clowns" (Song of the Year, 1975)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Best Cast Show Album, 1979)
Sunday in the Park With George (Best Cast Show Album, 1984)
Into the Woods (Best Musical Cast Show Album, 1988)
Passion (Best Musical Cast Show Album, 1994)
West Side Story (Best Musical Cast Show Album, 2010)
Tony Awards
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Best Musical, 1963)
Company (Best Musical, Score, and Lyrics, 1971)
Follies (Best Score, 1972)
A Little Night Music (Best Musical and Score, 1973)
Sweeney Todd (Best Musical and Score, 1979)
Into The Woods (Best Score, 1988)
Passion (Best Musical and Score, 1994)
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre (2008)
Drama Desk Awards
Company (Best Musical, Outstanding Music, and Lyrics, 1969–70)
Follies (Outstanding Music and Lyrics, 1970–71)
A Little Night Music (Outstanding Music and Lyrics, 1972–73)
Sweeney Todd (Outstanding Musical, Music, and Lyrics, 1978–79)
Merrily We Roll Along (Outstanding Lyrics, 1981–82)
Sunday in the Park with George (Outstanding Musical and Lyrics, 1983–84)
Into the Woods (Outstanding Musical and Lyrics, 1987–88)
Passion (Outstanding Musical, Music, and Lyrics, 1993–94)
OBIE Awards
Road Show (Music and Lyrics, 2009)
Laurence Olivier Awards
Sweeney Todd (Best New Musical, 1980)
Follies (Best New Musical, 1987)
Candide (Best New Musical, 1988)
Sunday in the Park with George (Best New Musical, 1991)
Merrily We Roll Along (Best New Musical, 2001)

Up against which is Simp's theater degree from C. W. Post college.  Obviously he was a beneficiary of grade inflation even back then.


  1. Hey Sparkles -- unlike you, I have a degree in (and have worked in) theater, so I'm well aware of the theater reference in "Send in the Clowns" (not to mention lots of far more interesting similar theatrical expressions like "If you can't sing or dance, honey, show us your tits." That aside, songs have to stand alone, and in that context, you moron, "send in the clowns" is indeed a fucking metaphor and yes laughably trite and sentimental.

  2. "he's saying he knows more about theater than Stephen Sondheim "

    No, I'm saying I know more about theater than YOU do, Sparkles.

    Incidentally, your hero Stepan Wolpe taught composition in the music department at Post.

  3. Well, dopey, since it was what Stephen Sondheim said ABOUT HIS OWN SONG IN HIS OWN PLAY, I can say that my education included knowing when someone is quoting someone POINTING OUT THAT HE IS QUOTING SOMEONE.

    Um, Simps, I've got a masters degree in music, musical theater was included in the curriculum. Apparently I paid more attention than you did.

    Stefan Wolpe must have been hard up for a job at the time. You apparently forget our go round about him. You really do have a mind like a sieve don't you.

  4. I quoted Sondheim by name, dickweed.

    Ever actually perform in a play? Direct one? Sing and dance in one? I did. Lotsa times. Even got a nice review from John Simon (of all people) at the Yale Drama Festival. Ooh -- Ivy League. Obviously that sucks.

    Get back to me when you've done that and we'll compare notes about the theater.

    And BTW, Stepan Wolpe wrote the single worst song in the history of Western music. The Post Alma Mater. You can look it up.

    1. I only posted this so I can use this quote by Roger Ebert, "I feel repugnance for the critic John Simon, who made it a specialty to attack the way actors look. They can't help how they look, any more than John Simon can help looking like a rat."

      Yeah, I performed in several plays and sang in two operas. I played the piano for performances, too.

      SteFan Wolpe wrote a lot of music, some of his pieces better than others. He's been performed by musicians like the great Russell Sherman, Gerard Schwarz, Robert Miller, The Julliard Quartet, Curtis Macomber, Peter Serkin, David Tudor, Marc Andre Hamelin, .... I could go on and on. It's not his fault he had to teach at Cornflakes College.

  5. John Simon was a shit, but he still gave me a nice review. That's how good I was.

  6. "I performed in several plays and sang in two operas. I played the piano for performances, too."

    Ever play the lead in an off-broadway play that got a nice review -- including for the lead -- in the Village Voice? Ever play the lead in a play at the Yale Drama Festival?

    Get back to me when you do and we can compare notes.