One of the greatest things about America, besides Grandma Sycamore’s bread, is the fact that in this country, anyone — yes, ANYONE — can make fun of famous people.
For example, I recently performed a song making fun of Michael McLean, and I did it in front of Michael McLean, at a Michael McLean concert. This could not have happened in Russia or China, mainly because the Wilkinson Center ballroom is not located in either of those places.
The way this came about is that last year, I wrote a parody of Michael McLean’s famous song “Hold on, the Light Will Come.” Michael’s song revolves around the general theme that you should hold on, because whatever is messed up right now will get better. This obviously is not always the case, of course. Some things don’t EVER get better. However, this would not make for a very uplifting song:
“Might as well give up;
Things are as good as they’re gonna get.
Lots of people are better off than you,
And if I were you, I’d be pretty upset,
And perhaps vent my rage in acts of violence.”
So anyway, my parody is called “Hold on, the Light Will Change,” and it’s about being stuck at a really long red light. This is a common occurrence here in Provo, where some of the traffic lights do not even have green bulbs in them. The two major causes of pollution in Utah County? Geneva Steel, and my car, Pedro, having to idle at red lights every two blocks.
The song is relatively funny, and I do a nice little impression of Michael McLean, and I did the song several times when I was with the Garrens Comedy Troupe, before they threw me out. Michael got wind of the song, and when he knew he was going to perform at BYU a few months ago, he called up the Garrens beforehand and sued them.
No, actually, he invited them to come mock him publicly. Of course, the Garrens jumped at the chance and asked me if I wanted to sing the song again, and of course I did. The whole thing went off without a hitch, and Michael was a really good sport about it, even at the part where I said, as him: “A lot of people ask me which of my songs is my most favorite, and I tell them that’s a difficult question to answer, because they all sound the same to me too.” Like I said, he was a REALLY good sport. He’s a very down-to-earth LDS musician — not as cheesy as Janice Kapp Perry, and not as pompous as David Glen Hatch.
Being at his concert meant we got to hear some of his classic songs, many of which have been made famous by being featured in church videos that most missionaries have seen several hundred thousand times. Such repeated exposure prompts analysis of the songs.
For example, there’s Michael’s “Be That Friend,” featured in the film “Together Forever”:
“Everyone hopes to find
One true friend who’s the kind
They can count on for forever and a day.
Be that friend, be that kind
That you’ve prayed you might find,
And you’ll always have a best friend, come what may.”
OK, what exactly is he saying here? That if you try to be a good friend to others, you’ll always have a best friend, and that best friend will be yourself? Because THAT’S certainly not very comforting. Who wants to be friends with themselves? I hate me. I’m looking for someone who’s NOT me.
Or, is he saying that if you are a good friend, someone will be a good friend to you in return? Because I’ve tried this, and it doesn’t always work. Some people are perfectly content to let you do all the work at being nice and devoted and loyal, while they just sit back and borrow your car all the time, never giving anything in return, except for the occasional “You’re such a good friend!” remark that does not count for SQUAT. I mean, that doesn’t put gas in the car, does it? That doesn’t make up for the sleep I lost talking you down after your stupid girlfriend broke up with you without warning (well, except for the SEVERAL THOUSAND warnings I gave you, about how this girl is psycho, and she’s only going to hurt you, but you didn’t listen, did you? No, I’m a “good friend,” but not good enough to assume I know what I’m talking about and actually take my advice. I mean, come on Randy! What were you thinking?!?)
I’m sorry. Ignore most of what you read in those parentheses, especially if you are Randy.
Another song that Michael McLean is famous for is “You’re Not Alone”:
“You’re not alone,
Even though right now you’re on your own.
You are loved in ways that can’t be shown;
Your needs are known;
You’re not alone.”
This is a nice song, with a nice message, but doesn’t it seem like Michael was just choosing words that rhymed with “alone”?
“You’re not alone,
Even though you’re only skin and bones.
They can take a sheep and make a clone;
Now please don’t moan;
Or make a groan;
Or cast a stone;
Someday when you’re all grown,
We’ll go to Alabama and have some corn pone.”
But I have digressed from my point. What is my point? That I like songs. Bye-bye.
This column sat on the back-burner for quite a while before I finally published it. The concert at which I performed was in January 1998, and I wrote this shortly thereafter, but I was never terribly pleased with it, and besides, I kept having better things to write about. Finally, when the first week of spring term crept up on me without warning and I was suddenly without something to write about, I used this one.
The full text of my song can be found here. Also, my unjustified and heartless jab at David Glen Hatch has an amusing backstory -- I wrote a negative review of one of his CDs, and he responded fervently -- but the text of the review and our subsequent correspondence seems to have disappeared into the ether of the Internet.
This column marked the beginning of Wednesday publication for "Snide Remarks." We had to move from Monday because during spring and summer terms, The Daily Universe doesn't come out on Mondays. Wednesday seemed like a logical choice because it's the day the most students are on campus.
I would also like to stress, one more time, that Michael McLean is a really great guy. He was such a good sport about the serious mocking we gave him, and I assume, if he were to read this column, that he would find it amusing as well. We ran into each other several times after this and always got along well enough. I like him.
In March 2001, I received the following e-mail:
Hi I am an lds member and I am very saddened to see that people like yourself have nothing better to do that to critize someone that has made such a difference in people's lives. I do hope that you get your life together and come up with something more entertaining than ridiculing somebody with such talent. Like I said I have felt the spirit while listening to his music, some of us obviously have not . It is one thing to make fun of ordinary music artists, but it's so disappointing when you ridicule someone with such an ability to uplift others. Just remember if you have ever read the BoM what the people were doing when the people were crossing the field with the iron rod. "THEY WERE MAKING FUN OF THEM".....Sincerely......
... and then no name was signed, though the return line on the e-mail said Carlos Albayeros.
Interesting how he used quotation marks around "they were making fun of them," even though that is not a quote from the Book of Mormon.
Anyway, I didn't know which column he was talking about, so I wrote back and asked. He replied:
I am talking about the Michael Mclean "Hold on the light will change article, now does it make sense?????
I wrote back that yes, I now knew which article he was talking about, but no, it still didn't make any sense. The column made it clear Michael knew about the parody and had invited me to perform it. If Michael himself is not offended by it, why should anyone else be?
And of course the very notion that being LDS should make one immune from parody makes my head explode. LITERALLY!!!!!