The Tony- and Grammy-winning team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray) created a satirical song for Oscar presenter Robin Williams to perform last week. But when network watchdogs had a problem with the humor, the piece was pulled from the show. Employing a bit of dramatic license (combining two days of phone calls and a rehearsal into a single face-to-face encounter), Shaiman recounts the painful vetting process.
When Robin learned he would be announcing the award for Best Animated Feature, he had a great idea for a song. So he contacted my partner, Scott Wittman, and me and we whipped up a little ditty.
Since Robin was out of town for the band rehearsal, I got to sing with the orchestra and choir! (I was fabulous.) The number began with a spoken intro.
”Recently, a Dr. James Dobson and an organization entitled — ”
”Excuse me for interrupting,” said Gil Cates, the show’s producer. ”Why say his name and give him any more celebrity?” An easy change. I picked back up.
”Recently, a group protested to Congress their suspicions that beloved animated figure SpongeBob SquarePants is gay, due to his inclusion in a video promoting tolerance. We have just received a telegram of their further findings. . .”
I began singing (flawlessly):
Pinocchio’s had his nose done/Sleeping Beauty is popping pills/The Three Little Pigs ain’t kosher/Betty Boop works Beverly Hills.
”Hold it!” cried the censors. ”We can’t allow drug use to be promoted on prime-time.” ”Promoted?” we asked. ”You mean like Karen on NBC’s Will & Grace? We’re not doing that.” Oddly, they seemed to have no problem with prostitution or (this being Hollywood) facial reconstruction.
Regaining my composure, I resumed:
Superman is on steroids/Tinky Winky is in the pink/Dammit to hell/Wake up and smell/The stink beneath the ink!/Chip ‘n’ Dale both are strippers/Scrooge McDuck is really tight/Bugs Bunny’s a sexaholic/ And Snow White has been up all night!
”Whoa, whoa, whoa! You can’t say ‘strippers’ on TV. . .and certainly not ‘sexaholic’!” warned our friends from Standards & Practices as they paused to okay a promo of a married woman seducing a high school student on ABC’s Desperate Housewives. (Apparently our cocaine reference went over their heads.) I continued:
There’s something fishy ’bout Nemo/ Batman and Robin share a sink/ Winnie the Pooh/We know what he’s into/ The stink beneath the ink.
Scatological sex is apparently right up ABC’s alley, since this last stanza got nary a mention:
Fred Flintstone is dyslexic/Jessica Rabbit is really a man/Olive Oyl is anorexic/ And Casper is in the Ku Klux Klan.
”Now hold on a dog garn minute!” cried the legal department. ”You cannot make fun of disabilities. . .and that Casper line has got to go!”
Where was their sense of the ridiculous? And more importantly, who were they afraid was going to sue, Casper or the Klan? Still (with great panache) I barreled on: