Saturday, June 5, 2010

"Pour some shook-up Ramen!"

There was a time when I hated karaoke with the heat of a thousand suns. I would go out with friends, and after two or three beers the urging would begin:

Peer Pressurer #1: (Looks up from a plastic basket full of breaded molten cheese that is being consumed an alarming rate.) "Hey, B5. You gonna *munch* sing somethin'?"
Me: "Hell no."
Peer Pressurer #2: "Awww, c'mon!"
Peer Pressurer #1: (Crumbs fly across the table.) "Yeah, dude. Man up. No one cares anyway."
Me: "I don't want to sing, damn it. I just want to drink my Corona/Yazoo/Stella/Whateverbeerbrandthatwillpaytobementionedinthispost and judge people in peace."
Peer Pressure #2: "But you have a lovely singing voice! You did eight years of community theater, for pete's sake! What's with the stage fright?"
Me: "While I appreciate the compliment, you'd have better luck winning a land war in Asia armed with only a blunt penknife and a catcher's mitt made out of gelatin than getting my contrarian ass up on that stage, so drop. it."
(Peer Pressurers #1 and #2 collectively back off, having shat a little. Fin.)

Or something like that. You get the idea. I was very opposed to the whole notion. Here was the equation: Stage fright + the fact that my verbal acuity is always the first thing to go with consumption of alcohol + consumption of said alcohol = no karaoke for Brian.

I'm proud to say that my days of fear and loathing of karaoke are long gone. What changed the game? Dare-aoke.

For the uninitiated, dare-aoke (also known as "kamikaze karaoke" among white ethnocentrists) involves submitting a song for someone else with or without their knowledge. In the case of the latter, there is typically a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth on behalf of everyone involved.

In much the same way we approach personal hygiene or the Dewey Decimal System, my friends and I came up with our own set of rules. Once we determine who will be participating, each of us picks a person to submit a song for, taking care not to have any two people submitting songs for each other. Then we shuffle the submission slips and hand them to the host. Finally, each of us gets called up in turn; discovers his/her song; curses the person who submitted it; butchers it; and sits down. This is repeated until everyone has had a chance to make everybody in the joint seriously consider making out with the business end of a howitzer.

But wait! There's more! You may wonder, "What's the fun in singing a song horribly that you don't know?" Here's the beautiful part of our particular brand of dare-aoke: the revenge round. For us, the first round is just a warm-up. A necessary evil, if you will. The revenge round is where the REAL fun starts. It's exactly what you think it is: Each person gets to turn the tables and vent their frustration by submitting a song for the person who dared them in the first round.

It's truly brilliant. The revenge round frames the whole endeavor. You can't be too mean-spirited in the first round for fear of getting annihilated the next time you step up to the mic. And even when you think you're being kind with your choice, the singer might hate the song you picked and take it out on you exponentially. Frankly, you can't predict what is going to happen. The revenge round is, in a word, awesome.

But we didn't stop there. Dare-aoke was just the beginning. Before long, we came up with...

Whether played as a variation on dare-aoke or just plain karaoke, the idea is simple: Sing as, well, Cher. The only rule is that you can't actually pick a Cher song. This is a simple concept that has had hilarious results. But what really knocked 'em dead was...

I'm proud to say I came up with this one myself: First, you pick a song with frequently misheard lyrics. You know, like Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" ("Hold me closer, Tony Danza.") or "Purple Haze" by Jimmy Hendrix ("'Scuse me while I kiss this guy."). Then you intentionally sing the wrong lyrics. We've only played this once, and the crowd at the bar absolutely loved it. Everyone joined in singing, "There's a bathroom on the right!" (That's misheard CCR, by the way.)

To make a long blog longer, dare-aoke, with its built-in embarrassment factor, allowed me to think of karaoke as more of a game rather than a performance. Once I made this association, my fear of the whole situation all but disappeared. In fact, I've even been known to up the ante a bit by singing as Harry Caray, Fred Schneider (of the B52's), Katherine Hepburn or even Carol Channing.

We've created a monster, y'all.


  1. make everybody in the joint seriously consider making out with the business end of a howitzer.