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.