If, after hearing my songs, just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend or, perhaps to strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while.
My last public performance for money was in 1967. For free, it was 1972, with the exception of two little one-shot, one-song things. But that's just for friends, out of friendship for the people involved, and also because it was fun.
I didn't feel the need for anonymous affection, for people in the dark applauding. To me, it would be like writing a novel and then getting up every night and reading your novel.
There's something mathematically satisfying about music: notes fit together and harmony and all that. And mathematics has to do with abstractions and making connections.
One of the things I'm proudest of is, on my record 'That Was the Year that Was' in 1965, I made a joke about spending $20 billion sending some clown to the moon. I was against the manned space program then, and I'm even more against it now, that whole waste of money.
I'm not tempted to write a song about George W. Bush. I couldn't figure out what sort of song I would write. That's the problem: I don't want to satirise George Bush and his puppeteers, I want to vaporise them.
The real issues I don't think most people touch. The Clinton jokes are all about Monica Lewinsky and all that stuff and not about the important things, like the fact that he wouldn't ban landmines.
I didn't feel the need for anonymous affection, for people in the dark applauding. To me, it would be like writing a novel and then getting up every night and reading your novel. Everything I did is on the record and, if you want to hear it, just listen to the record.
I was immersed in popular songs of the time, of the '30s and '40s. I was writing songs, making fun of the attitudes of those songs, in the musical style of the songs themselves; love songs, folk songs, marches, football.
When I was in college, there were certain words you couldn't say in front of a girl. Now you can say them, but you can't say 'girl.'
Eddie Izzard is wonderful, I think, but I've only seen that one HBO special he did. He's one of the few people who talk about stuff other than girlfriends and relationships and flatulence and genitalia. There are very few of them who actually talk about real stuff.
The Army has carried the American ideal to its logical conclusion. Not only do they prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, creed and color, but also on ability.
I stopped performing because I don't have the temperament of a performer. You have to want to do the same thing over and over again. Once I got it right, I didn't want to do it again. I always use the analogy of a novelist who has to read his novel in public night after night. I just didn't want to do it.
I always prided myself on at least trying to be literate and use the right words, and if the audience didn't get it, then they could go home and look it up.
I figure I wrote 37 songs in 20 years, and that's not exactly a full-time job. It wasn't that I was writing and writing and writing and quit. Every now and then I wrote something, and every now and then I didn't. The second just outnumbered the first.
I thought about majoring in Math, Chemistry and English, but Math had the fewest requirements, so I went with it. I knew I wanted to teach, and Math was my field, so I studied Math.
The people who were in college in the '50s were my first real audience, and their kids, the people who found my records in the cabinet during their 'Mad 'magazine years picked me up also.