It doesn’t have to be an existing TV theme song, the prompt says. Which is good, because theme songs now are rarely very gripping. Granted, I don’t watch a whole lot of TV. And I definitely don’t watch a lot of sitcoms. But the classic, cheerful Song Whose Lyrics Explain The Story seems to have fallen by the wayside long ago, for better or worse.
I could extrapolate on that for a while – and, ahem, did in an earlier draft. Musing on how theme songs have changed in my lifetime, and how technology seems to have influenced both that and a shift from episodic stand-alone content to shows with long-running mysteries and twisting plotlines. Few people have to worry about missing an episode of their favorite show now. Or even about having a tape in the VCR. They can watch whatever they want, on demand, quite possibly while sitting on the toilet. Companies don’t have to worry as much about someone saying “Oh, crap, I missed Wednesday’s episode – now I’ll have no idea what’s happening.”
Of course, that’s never been as much of a problem for sitcoms. It’s entirely possible I’m wrong, but the situation of a sitcom is still usually resolved within the half-hour, and there’s rarely much continuation of plot from one episode to the next. Every episode is more or less like the last, and more or less like the next, and it’s unlikely that any character will see any significant changes.
Yeah, that sounds like my life, all right.
This prompt is interesting, though, because I’d be more likely to characterize my life as some sort of drama. Not a particularly exciting one, mind. There isn’t a very big cast, all the characters get along pretty well, and the biggest conflict is between what those other characters expect of me, what I expect of myself, and what an absolute wreck I actually manage to make of everything.
To best distill my life to a sitcom, then figure out its most suiting theme, I guess you’d have to figure out what elements of my life to approach. It definitely couldn’t be an office comedy; I work from home and never even see any of my clients. The Boyfriend and I don’t get into nearly enough wacky hijinks for it to be some romantic comedy. Besides, those are insufferable. Most of my social interactions – and almost all of my comedic moments in general – happen online.
So perhaps that would be the setup. A sort of social media Herman’s Head, where all my various avatars vie for attention and relevance, without overstepping their bounds. The bloviating blogger, over-serious, over-analytical, sometimes painfully forthright. The enthusiastic virtual world resident, forever creating stories within stories, eager to help spread the strange. The irascible hermit who, on reading most of the news, wants to unleash a torrent of swears and/or go back to bed until three years from now. The independent contractor, faceless and neutral, who has to keep everybody else quiet until the job is done. The chirpy, oxytocin-doused cuteness glutton who’d shiv you to get another cute cat video. The generic public face who has to moderate it all and decide who should be seen how much and in what context.
Forget the tired cliche of “having the boss over for dinner.” I worry about sitcom-worthy travesties like “sending the boss, not The Boyfriend, a link to something from The Weird Part Of YouTube.” Or perhaps undermining my veneer of rational rectitude by squeeing over otters. Or defusing any illusion of affable competence by sharing a link to one of these prolix disquisitions on my identity and purpose.
And then there’s Facebook, where realworld acquaintances are rubbing electronic elbows with virtual world friends, theater freaks, gamers, former teachers, relatives, and audiophiles once removed.
Fortunately, all my friends are… well, y’know, decent. They’re not going to start stupid arguments with anyone, and if they don’t have something productive to say, they don’t tend to say anything. Still, it’s a place where the walls between worlds go thin. The friend-of-a-friend who composes glitch music is just a click away from talking to your uncle, who could talk to your weirdo theater friend, who could talk to your dad’s former coworker, who could talk with the webmaster for that one influential website, who could chat with the Lovecraftian bouncer, who could talk with the dude who grew up down the street from you, who could talk to your mom. All these people are totally valid, and all my relationships with them are honest and valid, and all the varying ways I may present myself to each of them (swayed by those strange forces of habit and politeness and mutual interest and unconscious emulation) are also honest and valid. But the idea of trying to explain everyone to everyone else becomes staggering! And, ultimately, I don’t even have that many friends!
Obviously, it isn’t as if any of these people in any of these constructed categories would be shocked or scandalized that I had all these various facets. It isn’t disingenuous to display only the most relevant and useful facets of your personality; the failure to tailor your behavior to the social situation is usually more awkward and harmful. Still, if exaggerated enough, that’s the only source of sitcom-level wackiness I can come up with from my life.
Now the question is: what song could be a decent sitcom-style intro to all that?
It would have to be something that wasn’t too alienating for any one of those facets of my personality (except, y’know, the professional ones that don’t get to have any personality.) And also not too alienating to any one of those nebulous social groups. Something accessible to all ages, not insulting or polarizing, but not meaningless or tepid either. Something that, all around, could “sound like me.”
There are two bands I can think of that probably everyone – from my weirdest weirdo friends to my farthest-flung internet friends to my relatives – could recognize as being Things I Like. First and possibly foremost: The Beatles.
Given all the Fun With Self-Expression, perhaps The Beatles’ “I Am The Walrus” could suit the situation. I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together, indeed! And, emblematic of my life, it’s mostly a cacophonous heap of semi-poetic imagery that, try as one might to analyze it and find deeper subtext, is ultimately meaningless — but hopefully at least a little bit enjoyable.
Though that’s a bit of a reach, for a good few reasons. My life really isn’t that psychedelic, for one. Plus, there’s this inalienable Britishness about The Beatles that makes it an unfitting soundtrack to American suburban nerd-life. Even – perhaps especially – in this song. Sitting in an English garden is unlikely to be a thing I ever do. Plus there’s “fishwife” and “knickers” and “custard” and other distinctly Albion-flavored imagery. This is America, dammit! We don’t have fishwives, knickers, and custard; we have bitches, boxers, and Imitation Cream Filling.
And, well, The Beatles are The Freaking Beatles. I am not awesome enough to deserve The Beatles as a soundtrack. Or Ringo’s All-Starr Band. Hell, I wouldn’t even merit Wings.
And so, as often I do when I find myself in an existential quandary full of loneliness and self doubt and wracked with the pain and isolation of my pitiful, meaningless existence, I turn to “Weird Al” Yankovic.
Fortunately for us all, he does indeed have a song that’s hyper enough for a sitcom, short enough for a sitcom, and – best of all – doesn’t have any pesky lyrics whatsoever! No lyrics to be factual or inapplicable, no lyrics to be tied to a place or a language, just fast, goofy sounds.
True, that it’s more of my theme on a good day – or, at least, on a caffeinated day. True, that it’s still probably more weird than I warrant. But if my life were to be a sitcom, it would already be focusing on all my best, funniest, weirdest times, intersecting with all my favorite, better, funnier oddballs, here in this supremely bizarro realm of The Internet.
And so, a thousand words to justify a song that doesn’t have any. (Well, except a big pile of “HEY!” at the end.)
My ideal theme? Weird Al Yankovic’s “Fun Zone.”