Kazoo – The great equalizer

With a spirograph, everyone's an artist!

I was playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” on my kazoo yesterday when I got to thinking about what a truly democratic instrument the kazoo is. I say this not just because it’s ideal for playing our national anthem (as well as other patriotic tunes like “God Bless America” and “The Fifty Nifty States”), but because no one is ever better at playing the kazoo than anyone else.

It is impossible to be bad at the kazoo. It is also impossible to be good at the kazoo.

To test this theory, I looked online for kazooing videos. All of them sound exactly the way you expect them to sound – like someone playing a kazoo. There are no professional kazoo players. No one attends school on a kazoo scholarship. No one is writing academic articles on the cultural impact of the kazoo.

So, it’s a gratifying little instrument. The bar for success is very low. Most people can play the kazoo perfectly the very first time they pick one up. All you have to do is hum into it and it makes a somewhat musical sound. It can be played loud or soft, fast or slow. If you are playing it for your friends, and if those friends have a sense of humor, they can dance to it. But the pitch and range of the kazoo are limited. The kazoo lacks complexity. The kazoo is actually rather annoying for anyone who has to listen to it being played for more than a few minutes at a time.

The kazoo of sports is the wiffle ball. It is easy to hit a wiffle ball. But it is hard to hit a wiffle ball very far.

The kazoo of visual arts is the spirograph. Every pattern you make with the spriograph looks kinda cool. But not super cool.

The kazoo of gardening is the Chia Pet. It is easy to grow those little clover things on a ceramic head. But it is not actually all that interesting to have a ceramic head covered in little clover things.

There is no such thing as the kazoo of writing.

There is no style or genre or formula for writing with which someone can just sit down and create something they find immediately satisfying.

I guess an argument can be made for haikus as the kazoos of writing because they are so short; it’s easy to write one pretty quickly. But it’s hard to write a good haiku. Writing a good haiku takes just as long as writing any other kind of poem – longer, for those who are not so syllabically inclined.

I guess an argument could be made for Mad Libs as the kazoos of writing. But as a writer, I would find the suggestion that one could fill out a Mad Libs sheet and call it “writing” insulting.

Of course, actual athletes probably find the suggestion that one could hit a wiffle ball and call it “playing a sport” insulting.

Actual musicians probably find the suggestion that I can hum into a kazoo and call it “music” insulting.

Actual musicians probably say there’s no such thing as the kazoo of music.

 

On a related note, this is the internet’s best kazoo video.

19 Comments

  • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

    What’s the bowling of kazoo playing?

  • Ann says:

    mmmm kazoo music–a great way to start the day! :)

  • Brett says:

    When we were planning our wedding, I tried to convince my wife to let me distribute kazoos to all the guests so they could play the wedding march as my wife walked down the aisle.

    This was vetoed, as was a costume-party wedding. (We would have gone as the bride and groom, of course.)

    • Leyna Krow says:

      Haha! Yes! Both awesome ideas. I can’t imagine why she didn’t go it.

      • Brett says:

        It’s OK, we had one hell of an awesome wedding. We got hitched in one of my fav. buildings on the planet, and the reception was at a great restaurant/bar that had an adjoining bowling alley. So there was midnight bowling and some great pictures

  • Fitz says:

    Well the guys in that video obviously think they’re top-notch kazoo players. On a related note, this post is awesome.

  • Deana Krow says:

    So, it sounds like the kazoo must be sounding the end note of your MFA program. (Bad, I know, but I couldn’t resist.)

  • Cathie Smathie says:

    Kazoos give me the chills…it’s like nails on a chalkboard for me!

    Also, the structure of this post rocks. It’s like a Bark-boomerang!

    Also, I laughed out loud at this: “They just weren’t worth the money.” Ouch.

    • Greg Leunig says:

      This is because you’ve never heard ME play the kazoo.

      • Cathie Smathie says:

        Greg Leunig come visit us NOW!! If it will help speed up the process I’ll book a venue for you to wow all of us with your mad-kazoo-skillz.

  • Katrina says:

    Dig this post, Leyna.

    I’d have to say the kazoo is the kazoo of the music world. That and the recorder. And auto-tune.

  • Jason Sommer jason says:

    as soon as i read the line “there is no kazoo of writing” i immediately thought of madlibs. i’m not sure what that means, re: me not being insulted as a writer. but i am sure this was a great post. well done, as always.

  • Monet Thomas says:

    I’ll give you the Kazoo but the recorder is wicked hard to play.

  • Greg Leunig says:

    One day, Leyna Krow, I will make a kazoo video that will force you to change your mind about the kazoo.

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