Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Tom Lehrer, fully Thomas Andrew Lehrer

American Comedic Songwriter-Singer, Satirist, Pianist and Mathematician

"Life is like a sewer... what you get out of it depends on what you put into it."

"[That it's sometimes indistinguishable from misanthropy is a risk the A.V. Club is willing to take.] People are stupider than anybody, ... They ban 'Huckleberry Finn' because it has the word 'nigger' in it. That's just silly. But what can you do? Except kill those people."

"A few years ago, a motion picture version appeared of Sophocles' immortal tragedy "Oedipus Rex". This picture played only in the so-called art theaters, and it was not a financial success. And I maintain that the reason it was not a financial success... you're way ahead of me... was that it did not have a title tune which the people could hum, and which would make them actually eager to attend this particular...flick. So, I've attempted to supply this, and here then is the prospective title song from "Oedipus Rex"."

"An actress must never lose her ego - without it she has no talent."

"All the world seems in tune on a spring afternoon, when we're poisoning pigeons in the park. Every Sunday you'll see my sweetheart and me, as we poison the pigeons in the park."

"Alas, irreverence has been subsumed by mere grossness, at least in the so-called mass media. What we have now--to quote myself at my most pretentious--is a nimiety of scurrility with a concomitant exiguity of taste. For example, the freedom (hooray!) to say almost anything you want on television about society's problems has been co-opted (alas!) by the freedom to talk instead about flatulence, orgasms, genitalia, masturbation, etc., etc., and to replace real comment with pop-culture references and so-called "adult" language. Irreverence is easy--what's hard is wit."

"And we will all go together when we go. What a comforting fact that is to know. Universal bereavement, an inspiring achievement, yes, we will all go together when we go."

"Andrew Wiles gently smiles, does his thing, and voila! Q.E.D., we agree, and we all shout hurrah! As he confirms what Fermat jotted down in that margin, which could've used some enlargin'."

"All books can be indecent books, though recent books are bolder. For filth, I'm glad to say, is in the mind of the beholder. When correctly viewed, everything is lewd. I could tell you things about Peter Pan, and the Wizard of OZ, there's a dirty old man!"

"And that is the story of Alma, who knew how to receive and to give. The body that reached her embalma' was one that had known how to live."

"And swear that you're mine, as we dance to the Masochism Tango."

"And we will all bake together when we bake. There'll be nobody present at the wake. With complete participation in that grand incineration, nearly three billion hunks of well-done steak."

"Any ideas expressed on this record should not be taken as representing Mr. Lehrer's true convictions, for indeed he has none. "If anyone objects to any statement I make," he has said, "I am quite prepared not only to retract it, but also to deny under oath that I ever made it." [liner notes]"

"Be prepared, and be careful not to do your good deeds when there's no one watching you."

"Brush your teeth with the best toothpaste,"

"But don't panic. Base eight is just like base ten really - if you're missing two fingers."

"Bad weather always looks worse through a window."

"Counting in octal is just like counting in decimal, if you don't use your."

"Apart from that Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"

"Don't say that he's hypocritical, say rather that he's apolitical. "Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun."

"Don't solicit for your sister, that's not nice, unless you get a good percentage of her price."

"Com-plex! ...and... You may end up like Oedipus. I'd rather marry a duck-billed platypus! Than end up like poor Oedipus Rex!"

"Get in line in that processional, step into that small confessional. There the guy who's got religion'll"

"During National Brotherhood Week various special events are arranged to drive home the message of brotherhood — this year, for example, on the first day of the week, Malcolm X was killed, which gives you an idea of how effective the whole thing is. I'm sure we all agree that we ought to love one another, and I know there are people in the world who do not love their fellow human beings — and I hate people like that!"

"For there is surely nothing more beautiful in this world than the sight of a lone man facing single-handedly a half a ton of angry pot roast!"

"Hark, the Herald Tribune sings, advertising wondrous things."

"His rivals used to say quite a bit that as a monarch he was most unfit. But still in all they had to admit that he loved his mother."

"I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky. In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: Plagiarize! Plagiarize, let no one else's work evade your eyes, remember why the good Lord made your eyes, so don't shade your eyes, but plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize..."

"I ache for the touch of your lips, dear, but much more for the touch of your whips, dear. You can raise welts like nobody else, As we dance to the Masochism Tango."

"I always like to make explicit the fact that before I went off not too long ago to fight in the trenches, I was a mathematician by profession. I don't like people to get the idea that I have to do this for a living. I mean, it isn't as though I had to do this, you know, I could be making, oh, three thousand dollars a year just teaching."

"I do have a cause though. It's obscenity. I'm for it."

"I didn't feel the need for anonymous affection, for people in the dark applauding. To me, it would be like writing a novel and then getting up every night and reading your novel. Everything I did is on the record and, if you want to hear it, just listen to the record."

"I don't think this kind of thing has an impact on the unconverted, frankly. It's not even preaching to the converted; it's titillating the converted.... I'm fond of quoting Peter Cook, who talked about the satirical Berlin kabaretts of the 1930s, which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the Second World War."

"I feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up."

"I find enough mystery in mathematics to satisfy my spiritual needs. I think, for example, that pi is mysterious enough (don't get me started!) without having to worry about God. Or if pi isn't enough, how about fractals? or quantum mechanics?"

"I feel that if a person has problems communicating the very least he can do is to shut up."

"I feel that if any songs are gonna come out of World War III, we'd better start writing them now."

"I find that if you take the various popular song forms to their logical extremes, you can arrive at almost anything from the ridiculous to the obscene or, as they say in New York, sophisticated."

"I hold your hand in mine, dear, I press it to my lips. I take a healthy bite from your dainty fingertips. My joy would be complete, dear, if you were only here, but still I keep your hand as a precious souvenir."

"I know that there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!"

"I'd like to take you now, on wings of song as it were, and help you forget for a moment, perhaps, your drab, wretched lives."

"I wish people who have trouble communicating would just shut up."

"If a person feels he can't communicate, the least he can do is shut up about it."

"If anyone disagrees with anything I say, I am quite prepared not only to retract it, but also to deny under oath that I ever said it"

"I would like to state at this time that I am not now and have never been... a member of the Boy Scouts of America. Their motto is, as you know, "Be Prepared!" and that is the name of this song."

"If after hearing my songs just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend or perhaps to strike a loved one it will all have been worth the while."

"If, after hearing my songs, just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend, or perhaps to strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while."

"I'm not tempted to write a song about George W.Bush. I couldn't figure out what sort of song I would write. That's the problem: I don't want to satirise George Bush and his puppeteers, I want to vaporise them. And that's not funny. ... OK, well, if I say that, I might get a shock laugh, but it's not really satire."

"If you're looking for adventure of a new and different kind, and you come across a Girl Scout who is similarly inclined, don't be nervous, don't be flustered, don't be scared. Be prepared!"

"If I can't get people to commit themselves on whether or not there is a square root of two, then I won't touch on God or anything here"