When Satire Fails

Sunday, February 24, 2013

This was back in 2007, but it still ought to be shared.

I get that they're making fun of conservative political cartoons here, but did they have to do it at librarians' expense? I happen to enjoy reading satire (and occasionally trying to write it), and the fact that they propagated one myth to shatter another makes me really sad. I normally love the Onion, too.

Now, I'm sharing this here because I'm currently in grad school to become an archivist and because quite a few of my characters in Londinium work as satirists. I have to point out why this doesn't quite work satirically. When you write or draw satire, you're trying to show things how they really are by making fun of them using exaggeration. In this case, they're trying to make fun of conservative political cartoons. Unfortunately, they've done this by representing another group of people incorrectly - librarians. 

Satire doesn't work so well when you show one myth to be false whilst simultaneously continuing to convince the public that another myth is real.

What the hell is a 'comic pianist?'

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

John Orlando Parry.
I figured that this would be a good post to write because...well, it's not really a thing people know much about besides the fact that Victor Borge existed and was an extraordinarily funny, talented man. Of course, there's a precedent for what he did, and it can be found in music hall.

The person Dustin looks up to in this field - besides his hero Franz Liszt - is a man by the name of John Orlando Parry. Amongst other things, the man was a songwriter, composer, cartoonist, painter, piano and harp virtuoso, singer and actor. But it's that piano bit that we want to focus on here, because as his career advanced as a performer, he began doing something of particular interest to our young Mr. Thatcher, as well as other performers like George Grossmith.

In 1860, the following happened:
On 4 June 1860, he joined Thomas German Reed and his wife at the Gallery of Illustration, Regent Street, London. Here he performed for nearly nine years, presenting a series of droll impersonations and musical monologues that inspired other comedians, including George Grossmith. He built comic sketches with musical illustrations around his own comic songs. He wrote these entertainments, composed his own music, and played his own accompaniments.
Naturally, we can see where this is going with regards to Dustin. Dustin keeps his ear to the ground when it comes to music, so at age 21 we can imagine he was fully aware that Parry was doing this. It would combine his theatre background and genuine love of the piano, so he'd probably be inspired to give it a try himself. The hard part, of course, is finding an audience for this sort of thing when you're working class and not everyone around you gets your composer parodies. But that's where Basil comes in.

Therefore, what we can conclude here is that during the 19th century the term 'comic pianist' was defined by music hall performers whose primary instrument for comedy was the piano. They'd do silly sketches and play funny songs, as well as impersonate composers and crack bad jokes as the night went on. Dustin, along with colleague Thorvald Abramssen, more or less work in a similar fashion. In the 20th century, the tradition continued most famously with Victor Borge:

Thorvald is of Danish heritage in tribute to Mr. Borge, but the comedian that most inspired how I write Dustin was also a piano virtuoso in his own right and did the most devastatingly perfect parody of Beethoven I've ever heard.

So there you are. That's basically what Dustin says he wants to do when he tells people he's going into the field of 'comic pianism.' Not that it's a field or anything, but now you have a better understanding of what it's all about.

To see a bit of John Orlando Parry's combination of cartooning and music, check out his 'Manual of Musical Terms' here.