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Tuesday, May 26

It is worth a whole new site?

I discovered some comedy notes and thought I'd share them here. Then I thought I'd share them on a whole new site about stand-up comedy... that's going to take a while, so they're coming here first.

I like old notebooks. Specifically, I like finding in old notebooks half-finished versions of something that later did get finished. It's interesting to see how something evolved. That applies more to the work of others than myself. I'm fascinated to see how musicals get adapted from original works, or how the later familiar version of a show is different from some earlier incarnation.

In today's installment of my braindumping, here are some evolutionary steps of the Where's Wally song that's available on my Discograffiti album. It wasn't intended to be in the Discograffiti show, but ended up replacing a song about Roget's Thesaurus that was ultimately less enjoyable. The Where's Wally song was originally written for a one-off show called "Not Now, Bernard". I say it was a one-off. It was for me. It was a run of shows where people were invited to bring along material about favourite works of fiction.

I think I ended up doing 4 pieces in the show, one of which was never seen again, and two which ended up in the Discograffiti Album, and one of which ended up in The Seven Deadly Sings. As I recall, I did an ill-conceived version of Anne Frank's Diary as a Ladybird book, where it had a happy engine with a rescue by Space Badgers. Not a zinger.

Then I did The Gruffalo, reimagined as a musical theatre song of self-doubt. That's on my album. I did a break-down of Doe A Deer from The Sound of Music, and then Where's Wally. Not necessarily in that order.

I used my piano and everything.

So, the main driver was to write a song about a childhood hero character, and Where's Wally is, of course, a blank slate as far as this is concern, not having a personality as such, just surface features.

Version 1

Wally, where are you?
You're really quite elusive
It's totally confusing
That you wear a woolly hat whatever the season
Wally where are you?
For crying out loud
You ask me to meet you in the middle of a Crowd
Then you don't seem to stand out, there's got to be a reason.

What are you hiding from?
Is it love? your sexuality? or debt collectors?
What lies behind your fixed smile and dead eyes?
Did you lose your mind in Vietname?
Did you only ever buy one set of clothes?
Or did someone lose the others in a laundry incident?
Have you ever been somewhere that's not very busy?
Are you a secret agoraphobic?

Wally, where are you?
You're hiding like a chimp [possibly wimp - can't quite read it]
Are you a drug dealer or pimp?
I've wasted hours trying to find you
Wally, I'm leaving!
I've waited long enough
Spotting you's quite tough.
Oh.... you were behind me.

What the hell was that?

I don't think that was quite intended to be the song. It looks more like a deliberate attempt to force ideas out into the open. On it, I've gone and marked certain lines with dots to show how powerful I must have thought they were when I read them back. This is a good trick I've used before with written material. Write the expected reaction type on the page and then review the density/quality from your own point of view. Then edit.

Version 2 (incomplete)

Wally where are you?
You're impossible to find
I've wasted a whole lunchbreak
Trying to meet you for coffee
Wally, what's with you?
Suggesting we meet in crowded places
Everyone has red shaped clothes and similar faces
and no matter the season you're in winter clothes

What are you hiding from?
Is it love, your sexuality, or debt collectors
What lies behind your square jaws, enigmatic smile, and haunted eyes
Did you lose your mind in vietnam?

Version 2 thoughts

It was more structured, but it died on the page. Perhaps at this stage, the lack of structure wasn't helping it. There are a couple of lines starting to take shape, but still it's relatively weak.

Version 3 (of 4)

Wally where are you?
You're so difficult to find
You ask to meet at lunch
When when I finally spot you it's teatime
Your suggest the meeting spot
Where everyone's in red and white
You're proof that the best hiding places are in plain sight

What are you hiding from?
Is it loneliness, debt, or your sexuality?
What's behind your fixed smile and dead eyes?
Did you lose your mind in vietnam?

What's with those winter clothes?
You're in a woolly hat come spring and summer
Have you considered a change in style
Might help you out of your obvious case of depression

Wally, where are you?
Are you even real?
Or are you a hallucination, brought on by eating too much yoghurt...

Close but not quite

This is very close to the final version. It runs out of steam, but it has a lightness of touch in between the darker punchlines. It reads familiarly, but hasn't been finessed in terms of some of the choice of language.

The problem was that it didn't really know how to end. In the end finding an ending involves a visit to Wikipedia as you'll see from this last draft.

Final Draft

Wally where are you?
You're so difficult to find
We arrange to meet at lunch
But when I finally locate you it's tea time
You suggest a meeting spot
Where everyone's in red and white
You're proof that the best hiding places, are in plain sight

What are you hiding from?
Is it loneliness or debt or your sexuality?
What lies behind that fixed smile and dead eyes?
Did you lose your mind in vietnam?
What's with those winter clothes?
You're in a woolly hat come spring and summer
Have you considered a change in style might snap you out of your obvious case of depresssion?

Wally, where are you?
Are you even real?
Or are you an hallucination?
Brought on by eating too much veal... I should say cheese, but that doesn't rhyme
I hear you change your name
When going abroad

In the U.S. you're Waldo
In France you are Charlie
Estonia Volli
In Iceland you're Valli
In Israel Effi
In Sweden, you're Hugo.... HUGO!?

Where did you go Wally?
Are you Jura, Willy, Holda, or Worri
Or Weili or Walter, I'm sorry
I cannot find you in a hurry

What happened?

Some of the above happened when the song was sung through with a tune and better lyrics suggested themselves.

Some of this is applying the usual musical comedy cliches of awkward rhymes, either a good rhyme that doesn't make sense, or a shoehorned half rhyme (sorry/hurry).

There's even a structural decision that a rapid-fire laundry list at the end of the song, taken from the aforementioned Where's Wally Wikipedia entry, and full of probably lesser-known facts about the character, would bring the song to a crescendo in terms of interest and density of material.

It's not stand-up club funny this one. It's amusing. I think it's written ok.

You can hear it here - as well as your favourite streaming services.


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