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Song Parodies -> "Life Ain't Easy With A High IQ"

Original Song Title:

"A Boy Named Sue"

Original Performer:

Johnny Cash

Parody Song Title:

"Life Ain't Easy With A High IQ"

Parody Written by:

Tommy Turtle

The Lyrics

The cold-blooded reptile with a pea-sized brain imagines what it must be like to be Albert Einstein or someone that smart. Somewhat based on the real-life story of William James Sidis (estimated IQ, around 300 or so), who ended up a ticket-taker on streetcar trains because he didn't have the sense of humor to deal with the rest of the world. So throw in some of George Carlin's "Class Clown" bits as well. Sort of a composite, if you will.

Parody follows this YouTube video with karaoke lyrics. Surprisingly, the version there that is claimed to be the original, live at San Quentin State Prison (with over 3 million page views), doesn't include the second verse. Apparently, Cash had just received the song, didn't know it well, and was reading it from a piece of paper during the prison performance. Maybe his eyes jumped ahead a verse.

Well, they taught me to read when I was three
Encycloped' and such, from A to Z
Doing math in head: age of five, and playing chess, too
Well, public school, it was no fun for kid
But the meanest thing that they ever did
Was to make me read 'bout Dick and Jane and Sue [1]

Well, I got so bored in school, I thought I'd choke
So to liven things a bit, I would crack a joke
It seems through all of school, I'm in deep doo
The kids would giggle; the teach, turn red
To Principal, I would then be led
I tell ya, life ain't easy with a high IQ!

Well, of school, I'm sick, it was torture, mean
My wits got hard; sarcasm, keen
I daydreamed through each class 'til it was through
But I made me a vow to the sun and sea:
I'd escape this jail, and soon be free
And do whatever-TF I wanted to

Well, I could never wait till mid-July
And vacation time, but that time would fly
I knew that come too soon, I'm back in class
And an old buffoon with a mind of crud
Stood at the blackboard, chewing cud
And my dirty, mangy mind would get so crass

Well, I knew adults couldn't be so smart
It was age eleven when our minds did part
And I left them all in the dust while they watched me fly
Be they women, men; or young or old
They all seemed so dumb and they left me cold
So I said, "This shiite is through! And screw you, too! Now I say good-bye!"

Yeah! That's what I told 'em!

Honors course: not hard, and I aced the SAT [2]
And I told them where to stick all that
Was a National Merit Scholar and "Pun-na Cum Loud" [3] [4]
I skipped half of my coursework; no loss: AP [5]
And we had quite a ball, Mike Phelps, bong, and me
Sexin' and a' druggin' to the rock and the roll made me proud [6]

The world's a little tougher, though
Deal with people? Can't -- not what I know
Quadratic equation's an easier nut to crack
Sometimes I'd laugh, but then sometimes I'd cuss
From tryin' to talk to those "Jerks R Us"
I knew that sooner or late, I would end up wack

I tell ya, "Folks, this world is dumb
"And if you're just using logic, won't getcha' a crumb
"Because people believe the crap on TV they hear
"And it's not a good feeling to dumb it down
"To cope, I have to just play the clown
"Parodic punning now is my career"


I say, "Now life has been one hell of a fight
"And I know folks hate me just because I'm right
"It kills me now, when I have to deal with all these fools
"But I tell ya frankly: before I die,
"I'll go lookin' for the putz and I'll spit in his eye
"And kill the son-of-a-b*tch that screwed our schools!" [7]

Well! What could I do? What *could* I do?

I got all joked up, and I wrote down a pun
And it got me a "ha", and a Five and a One
And I come away with an attitude: stink of fart
And I think about it, now and then
Ev'ry time I try: talk to a wall again
And if I ever have a son, I think I'm gonna teach him:
Rap or Sports! Anything but "smart"!
A darn lonely game!

[*] As usual, feel free to skip the footnotes (like ya need moi to give permission!) -- only one of them is humorous.

[1] The "Dick and Jane" reader series was commonly used as a reading primer. It was chock full of highly-educational prose like, "See Dick run. Run, Dick, run. See Jane run. Run, Jane, run. See Spot (their dog) run..." Yeah, it was just as boring then as when ya just read that.

[2] For those outside the US: the SAT (originally, "Scholastic Aptitude Test"), is a common college-entrance criterion. Verbal and mathematical abilities are scored on a scale of 200 to 800, with a median of 500.

Fun fact: SAT scores declined steadily in the latter half of the twentieth century. The solution was not to improve the US educational system (d'oh!), but to make the SAT easier. In 1994, the SAT was "dumbed down" to re-center the falling average scores back to around 500. So, if you took the SAT from 1995 onward, you should subtract about 70 points from the verbal and about 20 or 30 points from the math to see what your scores would have been if you had taken it when we fossils did. If subtraction is too difficult, there is a free, handy calculator to convert old and new SAT scores linked in the outtro.

[3] The National Merit Scholarship Program in the US tests about 1.5 million students per year, of which fewer than 0.6% (fewer than six of every thousand applicants) ultimately win the scholarship. In other words, the cutoff is just above the 99.4th percentile level.

[4] "Summa cum laude" (with highest honor), the highest honor awarded along with a graduate's diploma, above "magna cum laude" (with high honor) and "cum laude" (with honor).

[5] "AP" = Advanced Placement: being allowed to skip certain courses, perhaps receiving credit for them, by testing satisfactorily beforehand. Quite the timesaver! (Typical examples: Freshman English or English Composition)

[6] Then: "Sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll". Now: "Condoms, Madonna, and Just Say No." Mwahaha!

[7] The author puts a lot of the blame on Columbia University, a major breeding ground for the "Look-Say" method of teaching reading, and for the "New Math", both of which have been dismal failures, as opposed to phonics and the Old Math, which worked.

A composite of Albert Einstein and George Carlin? Surely no one but TT is wacky enough to dream that one up, thank goodness! .... SAT score converter here. © 2009 Tommy Turtle. All rights reserved. E-mail:

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Voting Results

Pacing: 4.7
How Funny: 4.7
Overall Rating: 4.7

Total Votes: 15

Voting Breakdown

The following represent how many people voted for each category.

    Pacing How Funny Overall Rating
 1   1
 2   0
 3   0
 4   0
 5   14

User Comments

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Christie Marie M - May 06, 2009 - Report this comment
It's nice to be smart, but I understand it gets boring after a while. No challenge whatsoever and you end up getting talked down from other people. Now I know how Matilda (Roald Dahl) and Lisa Simpson feels as their own families insults them of their intelligence. I always knew, for a reptile, you are a parody genius, Tommy Turtle. IQ score: 555!
Glen S - May 06, 2009 - Report this comment
Well done. I feel like I know more about Tommy T and his outlook now :c]. Great take on a world you need to laugh at to survive. I wrote one to this song years ago that got rather deep as well. Enjoyed it thoroughly
Susanna Viljanen - May 06, 2009 - Report this comment
Just don't retreat into your shell because you have high IQ. I can well relate to this song - I learned to read at age of 3.
Tim Hall - May 06, 2009 - Report this comment
I have been through this situation as well, so I can identify with it.
Thirtyith Pursentile - May 06, 2009 - Report this comment
I found this highly amusing and remarkably well researched... though, I must confess, I can't at all relate to your particular position on the 'bell curve'.
Mark Scotti - May 06, 2009 - Report this comment
It looks like you put much thought into this parody of much thought! IQ 555
Patrick - May 06, 2009 - Report this comment
Catholic schools did not have "Dick and Jane" We were cursed with something equally inane But we didn't curse and moan We learned reading on our own And turned out (most of us, at least) quite sane
Andy Primus - May 06, 2009 - Report this comment
Very funny - especially liked from 'choked up' to '5 and a 1'
Andy Primus - May 06, 2009 - Report this comment
I'm thinking of doing a version of Major General & I've just seen a Youtube vid of a bloke doing it in what looks like either an audition or a self promo vid (brilliant performance & facial expressions). I've noticed that the Heliogabalus line (don't know if any more - thought I'd ask this before I really look into it) has 17 instead of the usual 16. I've read numerous versions on this site & they all have 16's the whole way through (except for one that dropped his down to 15 for that line!). I watched another vid from the actual stage version & he sings it as 17 as well. At first I thought there might have been an odd way of pronouncing it such as a Y for the IO but that doesn't seem to be the case. Is there something that I'm missing or do you all use straight 16's because it flows better?
malcolm higgins - May 06, 2009 - Report this comment
sad that the only mensa officers here are us ...well done my reptilian friend
Tommy Turtle - May 06, 2009 - Report this comment
Christie Marie M, Glen S,, Susanna Villanen, Tim Hall, 30th %ile (ha! ya thought I'd fall fer that one?), Mark Scotii, Patrick, Andy Primus, malcolm higgens: Not at all surprised that this song resonated for you all. Some people say 'the pun is the lowest form of humor". I think it's the highest. It requires a large vocabulary and strong verbal skills, plus the mathematical capabilities of analogy and logic to find hidden connections and twist them in a funny way. For parody, add in analysis of rhyme scheme and meter (pacing).... and lots more.

I would expect that if the above group were tested, it would come out several standard deviations above the norm. Yep, that's we: Deviant and in no way normal :-) (but normal is dull, or as the bumper sticker says, "Normal people scare me.")

Andy Primus: Sometimes, as with "tired", "smile", etc., you have what the baseball players call a "fielder's choice": you can regard it as either one syllable or two, whichever suits you. "Every" and "different" are literally three syllables, but are almost always pronounced as two, at least by typically-lazy US speakers. I tend to put in the apostrophe of ellision (ev'ry, diff'rent) if I need to make clear to the reader that it's to be read as two syllables. I expect that similarly, most American writers would *say* "Helyogabalus" vs. "Hel-i-o-gabalus". Although British pronunciation might be different (Brits tend to elocute and enunciate much better, in this Yank's opinion), you'll note that the 16-beat pattern that is kept pretty much throughout the OS is definitely in the lines both before and after the Helio/Helyo, so only "Helyo-" keeps that line matching its antecedent and subsequent. Since 16-foot lines are the norm for this song, I'd stay with that.

Interesting exception: "I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies,". 17 syllables; the reason: Most lines open with an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one. That line has *two* unstressed syls, "I can", before the stress, "tell". I would view that like a "cue note" in music. Also, the repeated line, "animal, vegetable, mineral" requires the enunciation of all four syls. in "vegetable" to stay with the 16, whereas in the US at least, this word is almost universally pronounced in three, "veg'table". On the other hand, we keep all four in "military", "secretary", etc. vs UK "milit'ry" and "secret'try", so it all evens out in the end :-) Looking forward to your MG parody.

Thanks to all. It's been a rotten work week and had a cold besides (no, not swine flu -- sorry, cable news channels!) -- but both are calming down, so hope to get around to some of your best songs of the week in the next day or to. Thanks again.
Next Day or To? - May 06, 2009 - Report this comment
well, at least we know this wasn't an autobiograyphy! -- d'oh!
alvin - May 06, 2009 - Report this comment fave of the day
Susanna Viljanen - May 07, 2009 - Report this comment
Just as a comment to the resident testudinarian: the Finnish humour is mainly based on puns, wordplays and homonymes. On what comes to that emperor, we attempt to pronounce the name as close as it would have been in the original language - in this case "hell-yo-gub-ull-oos"
Tommy Turtle - May 07, 2009 - Report this comment
NDOT: Oops! -- typing with flippers again.

alvin, thanks much.

Susanna Viljanen: Thanks for backing me up. It's how I would have taken it, to fit the meter as said to Andy, but it's good to hear it from one with native knowledge of the language and name. Thanks for returning to comment.
HyeEyeQue - May 07, 2009 - Report this comment
Bravo, sir! Me thinks ewe could teach a master class in master classing!
TT - May 07, 2009 - Report this comment
HyeEyeQue, thanks! But what's with the "ewe" thing? This is all about smart people, not some dumb sheep-boffing ranch hand! :) :) :) (roflmao -- thanks HEQ)
Nick P - June 08, 2012 - Report this comment
What did I tell you about giving away our secrets, tommy? Yes, a painful road for our type. The closer to reality our lens is, the more pain. I recently noticed true satisfaction in only the spiritual or philosophical types focused almost entirely inward. Thinking about taking a lesson from them, if I don't figure out how to trump society & bad luck. In the mean time, I just give a little grin and nod to everyone who tells me "wow, I wish I was as smart as you." Then, I add, "I'd rather be born just like you." I casually walk away as they try to make sense of it. They won't. Yet, it makes more sense than they'll ever know.
TommyTurtle - June 08, 2012 - Report this comment
Nick P.: I've often wondered the same: Would life be better without this combo gift/curse? ... of course, we can't see it from their side, either, so no way to know.

As I sometimes say, "The view from the top of the mountain is great, but the problem is that you're always looking down." Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
Peregrin - August 12, 2012 - Report this comment
Superlative. Your point [7], not surprisingly, also took root in thinking here, and irrevocably dumbed down the up and comers...sigh...
Tommy Turtle - August 12, 2012 - Report this comment
Peregrin: Sad to hear that the disease has become globally pandemic.... I guess as those students come of age to start writing here at AIR, it accounts for the decline in quality that we have commented on, both privately and publicly. It's not their fault that the school system failed them. Thanks for reading, and for perceptive, if disheartening, comment.

@ Next Day or To?: If you see this, know that after several requests from this writer, and support from others, ChuckyG finally did us the wonderful favor of "comment preview", which wasn't available in 2009. Back then, there was no way to change a typo once posted. (And yet, I still post stuff with typos in it -- go figure! ;)

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