Magnificent Musical Mayhem in Allan Murray’s Layers of Tom Lehrer

By Ernest Kearney — For the most part, Tom Lehrer is as lost to most of our fellow citizens as Jimmy Hoffa, the Ark of the Covenant and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Which is a pity because Lehrer could give the vast, unvaccinated, “Fox Spewing,” deplorable horde of post-MAGA America a much-needed dose of common sense and treat the rest of us to a good laugh.

It’s understandable if you don’t know Tom Lehrer. A contemporary, as well as friend, of Lenny Bruce, Lehrer composed only 37 songs and recorded five albums when, in 1972 at the height of his popularity, he turned his back on show biz to teach math at UC Santa Cruz.

But in the brief 20-year period in which Lehrer recorded, and performed sporadically, he established himself as the greatest musical satirist of the 20th century inspiring the likes of Tim Minchin, Weird Al Yankovic and Randy Newman.

In The Layers of Tom Lehrer, Allan Murray provides the audience with some background on Lehrer – from entering Harvard at fifteen, how performing was all but thrust on him, his struggles with censorship and his claim of having invented the Jell-o shot.

But Murray does not clutter the stage with excessive biographical tidbits, rather he chooses, wisely, to fill his stage time with a tasty medley of Lehrer’s toe tapping seditious tunes.

The Masochism Tango, The Vatican Rag and The Old Dope Peddler which rapper 2 Chainz sampled on his 2012 debut album, “Based on a T.R.U. Story.”

Lehrer’s songs tended to spring from topical topics, as when New York City in the ’60s, in an attempt to spruce up the “Big Apple,” actually considered utilizing toxic bird feed to reduce the city’s pigeon population, which resulted in Lehrer’s classic ditty Poisoning Pigeons in the Park:

All the world seems in tune
On a spring afternoon
When we’re poisoning pigeons in the park.
Every Sunday you’ll see
My sweetheart and me
As we poison the pigeons in the park

Concerns of greater gravity still got the same treatment from Lehrer who, when lamenting the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world, put out Who’s Next:

Japan will have its own device,
Transistorized at half the price.
South Africa wants two, that’s right:
One for the black and one for the white!
Who’s next?

Platinum Medal - via The TVolution

Murray nails every song masterfully. So masterfully, that he and The Layers of Tom Lehrer earn a PLATINUM MEDAL.

His final Fringe show, at The Wren Theater, is Saturday August 28th at 8:00pm.

Give yourself a treat and be there.


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The Layers of Tom Lehrer


The Wren Theater @ The Irish Import Shop
742 Vine Street


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For Updates, Tickets and Additional Information Go to:

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An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at and Follow him on Facebook.

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