Satiric singer/songwriter Roy Zimmerman returns to Berkeley at The Marsh with a new show, Faulty Intelligence, opening Wednesday.
“I hope it gets good reviews,” Zimmerman quipped, “but mostly I hope it gets denied under oath by Karl Rove.”
Zimmerman, who’s been called “a latter-day Tom Lehrer” by the LA Times, seems to strike a bargain between cabaret (out of Tin Pan Alley and Broadway) and the legacy of protest folksinging.
With numbers like “Jerry Falwell’s God,” “Creation Science 101” and a paean to Dick Cheney as the sexiest man alive, Zimmerman’s playlist shows he certainly wears his spleen on his sleeve.
He said he is delighted to be compared to Lehrer, the Cambridge, Mass., math professor and ’60s wit.
“His records were like contraband when I was a teenager,” Zimmerman joked, “like they should be smoked in some out-of-the-way spot. My older brothers and their friends had them, and they weren’t only funny but I learned a lot.”
These days the two sardonic songsmiths talk “a couple times a year” on the phone, “just to stay current,” Zimmerman said. He also remarked that Lehrer quit his second career as satirist when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Prize.
“He knew he couldn’t write anything funnier than that,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman has played with bands for a good deal of his 20-year songwriting career; among those bands was The Foreman, the satirical folk quartet that toured during the ’90s and recorded for Warner Reprise, once playing a series of shows swapping songs with The Pixies’ ex-front man Frank Black. Zimmerman remarks that he has always “related to social songwriting” though “there’s not much tradition these days.”
Keeping one ear open to the “really constructed mastery” of Lehrer and the Tin Pan Alley-Broadway lineage of Cole Porter and Lorenz Hart, and the other to “the more free-form” style of protest and folksong (Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs), Zimmerman said he aims at a contemporary satiric style.
Zimmerman and his family just moved back to the Bay Area, where he grew up, and he says he’s excited to perform to Berkeley audiences.
“Berkeley’s reputation for social protest is on my mind,” he said. “I remember the sense of glamor of the antiwar protests—I was too young to join in, watching from the safe distance of Sunnyvale. Of course, that glamor was deceptive. Real social change, the struggle for justice is work, not just music festivals.”
June 21-July 27 at The Marsh Berkeley in the Gaia Arts Center, 2118 Allston Way.
For more information, see www.themarsh.org or call (800) 838-3006.