RUSH: And we go back to the phones. We have Ron on a highway.
CALLER: Maha Rushie!
RUSH: He’s in Atlanta. Okay, great. How you doing, sir?
CALLER: Doing great. Listener since about ’92. Hey, listen, Rush. One of the things that makes your program so outstanding, obviously, besides your humble self, is the parodies that you come up with. I mean, nobody does what you do on a regular basis. And I’m curious about the creative process, where do those come from? Do you think of them and say, “Hey, Mr. Paul Shanklin, make me a parody about this,” or do people send them to you? How do they happen?
RUSH: Well, the parodies had kind of an interesting life span. When the program first started I was it. Every song, parody, and bit was something that I had prepped and stored up and wanted to use for a while. This inspired people to start sending things in.
And some of them were usable, and I did, ignorantly. I thought they were genuine contributors, and then later on I started getting bills and people demanding that I announce who did the parody. So I stopped accepting anything that was submitted. I learned early there was a big trick behind that, not just with parodies, but any number of things.
Where we currently are now, we have a satirist, the white comedian Paul Shanklin, who lives in Tennessee. He basically scripts these. He does the impersonations. He does the voice synthetization to facilitate the impersonations. It’s all a result of what happens on the program that serves as the inspiration. Sometimes I have an idea, ask him to do it. But he submits. If I like it, use it. If I want some changes, change ’em. But they’re basically spontaneous, based on what happens in the news.
RUSH: The parodies, the satires have taken a fascinating — if I stop and think about it — road in the way they happened. You know, there are many phases. This program has gone through many phases. In the opening phase when it was brand new, nothing like it, nothing else out there like it, it was just hot as firecrackers going through the roof. I remember going to Atlanta to a football game and the whole stadium stopping and applauding. It was Busch Stadium in St. Louis. It was so brand new, there was nothing like it.
It was the first national conservative show, and it wasn’t just politics. We were making fun of liberals with parodies and all kinds of stuff. Then that dies down after it becomes more settled in. The program is hopefully never static. It’s constantly growing and changing and adapting to all kinds of factors. The host gets older and more mature; the subject matter becomes more serious. Different power players in Washington and in the media are determining what’s discussed every day. It could never get stale if you stay hip to it and so the parodies are the same way.
Early on, when it was brand new… You know, success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. Couple that with robust naivete on my part. So the first two years, I mean, I’ve got all kinds of little helpers out there that I don’t know. People are sending me their thoughts on things, and most of it was up and up. Some of it I’d say, “This is really good,” and I would share it. Sometimes I’d identify it or not. In some cases, I found out that people sending stuff had their own websites, and I ended up being accused of copying and stealing from their website.
It was setup. There were other times where a spouse would say, “You know, you’ve used enough of this. Don’t you think you should start paying us?” This kind of stuff. “Wait. I’m just trying to be nice, for crying out loud, you’re going through the trouble of sending it and I’m trying to be nice!” So I eventually said, “To hell with it, the inclusiveness. It’s just gonna be me, only me. None of this other outside stuff. Being nice doesn’t work.” The parodies were the same way. There are things that were submitted over the transom.
One of the most famous parodies here that was not commissioned per se was the parody of Dion and The Wanderer, The Swimmer with Ted Kennedy, and that was submitted by a couple of guys in Albany, and… (interruption) Yeah. (laughing) It’s a great impression. Dion DiMucci the song was Ted Kennedy singing it. Yeah, just a little bit here just to people flavor of what we’re talking about here. This was submitted over the transom from Albany. We didn’t know the guy. We played it over and over again. (The Philanderer) You know, every time we’d play one of these, it would inspire others.
We had a group from California called The Dave Smith Band, and they alerted us to Klaus Nomi. It was the massive-growth era. But the current evolution now is that Paul Shanklin is our official satirist and parody guy. He produces them. He’s the “white comedian.” He lives in, I think, Memphis or Nashville, somewhere in Tennessee. It doesn’t matter where he is, and it’s all derivative of what happens on the program. So it’s a collaborative process, but they’re not scripted in advance. A lot of it’s… The singers have to be hired and all that.
But the more improv it is, the better — and the sooner it gets done after an event happens, the better. Some of these things used to take three weeks to produce, and, by that time, you know, the issue is over and dead and gone with. (interruption) Oh, yeah, Born Free. That was just Andy Williams, and I just put a bunch of guns and bombs and explosions over it, tweaking the animal rights crowd. (interruption) Oh, Rush the Knife! Rush the Knife. This one… What a history!
A FedEx driver or UPS in Las Vegas created Rush the Knife based on Mack the Knife by Bobby Darin, and it is just classic. It still holds up to this day. We can’t play it because it’s owned by the estate of whoever it was that owns The Threepenny Opera, and we’re under threat (laughing) of jail if we ever play it again. So on anniversary shows we’ve stuck in like 20 seconds of it, fair use, and we just roll the dice under the philosophy it’s better to apologize than ask for permission. (interruption) Well, the Rush Hawkins Singers and Barbara Chenault Law.
That was over the transom, the opera singer, the soloist, the soprano from Dallas. The audience got into the program. The number of people buying billboards for Dan’s Bake Sale, Fort Collins, Colorado. Anyway, that’s an overview of the parody situation. But his question was about the creativity of it, I think, and it all is inspired by what happens on the program and creative juices flow from that.
For every parody that you hear, there are the probably two or three that are submitted that don’t pass muster. We’re kind of like Apple in that regard. We don’t use it until we’re ready to use it if it’s right. Sometimes we’ll test-market something we’re not sure of. And all of these are on display constantly for people that call the program and are on hold. That’s what we do is play the parodies, rather than elevator music, Muzak, put people to sleep.
RUSH: You can see Rush the Knife on YouTube? Who put it up there? So it’s posted in violation of the copyright by Threepenny Opera. Well, hell’s bells. Just the audio. Then you can see it on YouTube. The legal beagles here strongly advise you just to shut your mouth most days, but certainly don’t play this parody.