Kultural Karaoke Konfusion


I had always thought that Karaoke was a universally understood language. Okay so I have only ever done it in Britain but if someone said, "Oh Dave gave a brilliant Karaoke performance Saturday Night," you'd immediately reply,

"Oh really, did he....

...Trip over a cable and smash his head?"

....sing like a cat on heat?"

...accidentally nut the DJ because he was so drunk he fell over?"

or

...short circuit the electrics by spilling his beer?"


The common denominator here being that he made an arse of himself.

Indeed, as I understand it the universal law of karaoke is that you are drunk, usually blind drunk and consequently think you are much better than you are. But you are drunk, blind drunk and you are slurring, dribbling, cannot control your feet, your makeup is all over the shop and you are hilariously entertaining without knowing it.

Not so. NOT SO. After nine years in the States I did something I regret doing. I went to a karaoke party. Now this was some sort of fundraiser for a school but there was an OPEN BAR with some kind of generic wine which I immediately availed myself of. There was also tons of beer. But even with free beer the crowd looked like they were at a wake.

Okay this took part in a church and maybe I really was in the wrong room and this was a wake for someone. They all sat there grim faced with their free booze and sang along under their breath to the karaoke.

Wait, it got worse. My British mate Darren and myself did Don't You Want Me Baby while getting my heels tangled in the electric cables. Unfortunately our crap performance was to be the high point of the evening.

I hope you are sitting down for this and not easily shocked but I saw some things I'd rather not have seen. In short I saw people taking karaoke seriously.

First there were a quartet of lumberjacks singing an acapela version of Rocking Robin. Yes it was in perfect pitch but it went on forever and was about as fun to watch as a Snooker tournament.

When that finished there was a really creepy wierdo who gave a dull rendition of Wichita Linesman. Now I quite like that song but firstly, is that really the sort of song to sing for karaoke and secondly it was such a spine chilling and lonely rendition I had the feeling that he had often sang it to himself in the mirror when he wasn't out train spotting.

Then there was a fifty year old Chinese woman with a flat, creaky voice who looked like a deer in the headlights as she sang without any intonation whatsoever Hit Me Baby One More Time. At this point I had lost the will to live. Did these people think they were auditioning for American Idol or were they just escapees from a mental hospital? I honestly don't know. Even when they were good they were boring. And when they were bad they weren't funny.

It got worse. Like the movie Groundhog Day the cycle of hell kept repeating itelf. The Lumberjacks, Creepy Wierdo and tone deaf Chinese Lady kept going in rotation. The audience did not get more lively. It was still like a wake and I was beginning to wonder if there was even any alcohol in the wine. This was how bad it was: it did not get better the drunker I got. I would have gone up to do another song but frankly I believed my comic talents would be wasted on this crowd so I just made like a banana and split.

And now I ask you dear readers: AM I ALONE in my experience or have you ever seen anyone do karaoke for serious? Is this an American thing? And is it worth me getting in touch with the UN to intervene in this. I mean, I just feel these people need to be educated that karaoke is not a singing contest to be taken seriously. 'Kin hell, I need to get on the blower to Ban Ki-moon about this. It's a national emergency. I just hope this isn't happening all over America...

Serious Karaoke...and I thought I'd seen it all...you live and you learn.