Mark Sherman: Am I not what I appear to be?

Mark Sherman“I’m not what I appear to be.”
— The Beatles, “I’m a Loser” (1964)


It does get harder to get new ideas when you’ve been writing a humor column for more than 30 years, so I do what everyone does: I check in on the Internet to see if it brings anything to mind. The first thing it brings to mind is, Why is my computer so slow? What’s the problem now?

Okay, I think it’s fine, so I’ll Google “funny stuff.”


I just did that, and most of what I found did not seem suitable for a family newspaper. But perhaps I’m not really suitable for a family newspaper and never have been. Maybe I have tried to squeeze myself into something I’m not.

But don’t we all do this in one way or another?

We all wear masks, don’t we? I just watched a movie that ranks #10 on the IMDB list of the top 250 movies (in terms of viewer ratings). I thought it was great up to about the halfway point, but then it got to be too much. The movie is “Fight Club,” and it very much deserves its R rating.

I believe a main theme of the movie is that we all have two very different sides — the careful, non-adventurous side and the wild side. I had a wild side once. Well, it wasn’t wild like some guys, but I looked for as much excitement as staying in school from the age of five to the age of 26 would allow me. Listen to this: I was a math major for a couple of years, then an English major for one semester, and, finally, I went into psychology. You talk about the wild life!

But wait, there’s more. Starting when I was about 20, I began writing and singing songs that were on the adult side. Nothing really scandalous or disgusting, but songs not meant for children — except, of course, my own children, who had no choice in the matter.

Sometimes I feel that was the real me. Sure, had I really gotten into my songwriting and performing, and ignored my studies, I would have totally disappointed my parents — who weren’t all that happy with me anyhow — but I wouldn’t be wearing the mask. I’d be out there in the real world, with no protections of tenure, no steady income, a wife and children who hated me and overwhelming guilt feelings. But I’d have been and would still be me! The real me.

So instead I have attained, at most, local fame, while at least one other contemporary writer of humorous songs, Weird Al Yankovic, has gone on to true fame and fortune. I could have been Crazy Mark Sherman (I mean I am crazy Mark Sherman, but this would have been with a capital C).

Yes, I know Weird Al has written such wonderful lines as these, from “Like a Surgeon,” his 1985 hit parody of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”: “Like a surgeon/Cuttin’ for the very first time/Like a surgeon/Organ transplants are my line.”

But how about this from my non-hit from the same year, “The Nose,” a parody of Bette Midler’s huge 1979 hit, “The Rose”?: “Some say beauty’s in the hair — the gold, the brown, the red/I say beauty, it’s the nose, the nicest part on any head.”

I think that as we get older, we all have to face a fundamental fact. We didn’t make it. We didn’t get as far as we thought we would. Okay, maybe Al Yankovic has, but even with him, who knows? Do you think maybe he felt a certain kind of guilt that his parents’ only child rose to fame with the sobriquet Weird Al?

How does it feel to introduce your child by saying “And this is our son, Weird Al”?

When my parents introduced me, at least it would take the people meeting me a few minutes to know that I was not the sanest oar in the drawer.

Yes, but I could have pursued my career of funny songs and witty repartee without having to have a nickname. However, this was not to be. I took the careful route. I was, as I wrote in my parody, “…the nose afraid of bumpin’/That will never cross the street.”