This began as a tweet but it became super long and personal so I figured it would be better served here.
Today I discovered that Rick Green from the legendary Red Green show is also one of the co-founders of The Frantics! In my defense The Frantics is a troupe I have only listened to, and never thought “Gee I should look up videos of them”. You may know them from such skits as Ti Kwan Leep (Boot To The Head), Last Will and Temperment, The Human Race or You Were Speeding.
Peter Wildman, also of The Frantics, was a writer on Red Green as well! The idea that there are a few significant crossovers in The Red Green Show and The Frantics absolutely fills my mind with excitement.
Speaking of the Red Green Show, few people knew this but I wanted to grow up to be just like Harold (played by Patrick McKenna) from said show.
His character was always proud of his nerddom, and though it was often played for laughs, he was loved for who he was and valued for his contributions to each episode. As a geeky kinda kid, that meant a lot to me, since I was constantly told to start acting “normal” and enjoy sports and objectifying girls, even at a young age. Nerds like Star Trek and Ghostbusters and Gremlins, Cool kids liked basketball and football and being rude to others. I liked liking things and people, which was very uncool.
I was constantly beat up and bullied because I didn’t wear the expensive shoes or harass girls. Or from their perspective and defense I was annoying. This meant I had few friends, as even being friends with me was a brand no one wanted. For example I came into school one day in 5th grade and someone wrote “Sarah M. Loves JohnPaul!” on the chalkboard. She was pulled from class and sent home shortly due to crying and being “traumatized” (as I was told later that day). Turns out the other kids got together and said they saw me do it. Joke is on them, my handwriting is and always has been basically illegible. I was of course punished by the staff for writing such horrible things on the chalkboard and later got beat up by the girls when they cornered me a few days later.
The reason I bring this up, is representation. Most kids had someone to look up to that was like them. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were at the top of their game, becoming legends in the NBA, Football players were being footballers, and the good-looking cool kids had Tom Cruise or Arnold Schwarzenegger to look up to. I gravitated toward my interests, so to escape I would pretend I was characters from movies or TV shows. Louis Tully (Ghostbusters), Harold Smith (Red Green Show), Data (Star Trek The Next Generation), Andrew (Jerry O’Connell on My Secret Identity)
or Billy Peltzer (Gremlins). Notice a theme? Every one of them were socially awkward, nerdy and all “uncool” but valued for their contributions. Even Louis Tully gets his moment to be a hero in Ghostbusters 2! The thing is these characters were very few and far between at the time, and still very uncool. Everyone wanted to pretend to be Peter Venkman. I wanted to be Egon or Louis.
So that brings me to why the Frantics were important to me.
Around 4th or 5th grade (so 1992/93 maybe) We had to do occasional presentations in class and due to my anxiety, I would simply make a radio show cassette. I would find songs and skits from vinyl records and other tapes that (often barely) represented what I was supposed to be talking about and add them to this tape. I’d do interviews with myself and essentially DJ a 20 minute presentation. One that stands out was where I had tracks from Dr. Demento’s 20th Anniversary Collection on this specific report.
I still remember the ones I used: The Red Green Theme opening, Existential Blues By Tom “T-Bone” Stankus (and I remember making a joke on the tape of “Stankus, not Stanky” which didn’t land well.) Surfin’ Bird By The Trashmen, Wet Dream by Kip Adotta and of course Ti Kwan Leep (Boot To The Head) by The Frantics.
I want to say Pencil Neck Geek by “Classy” Freddie Blassie was in there somewhere because they were all close together on the album, so it made it easier for editing into another tape.
While I thought it was the greatest collection of tracks that somehow had some tangential relation to the report I was intending to give (I have no idea what it was supposed to be originally) it did not go well. No one thought any of it was funny, and it just served to further ostracize me from my peers. At the time, I didn’t get the memo that not every kid wanted to listen to Tom Lehrer or Ray Stevens for fun.
But for me that was comforting. The humor and good-natured attitudes of The Frantics and other “Novelty” (never cared for that term) tracks helped me get through my days. I took those skits and that music as seriously as others took rap or heavy metal.
Finding representation in music is important, so discovering popular music that was not over sexualized, vulgar or extremely aggressive was a challenge, but rewarding when it did occur.
Other kids wanted to meet and get an autograph from Kimberly of Power Rangers, I wanted to sit and chat with someone like Zach Galligan or Patrick McKenna. Maybe someday I will, and I can honestly thank them for helping me find a path navigating the treacherous waters of childhood bullies. Without things that I could identify with, even later such as Troma and “bad” movies, I don’t know if I would have made it to 37 years old, as of April 16. Maybe that’s why I am thinking of this, my birthday is in 4 days and I guess I am nostalgic.
But keep this in mind when you see things like a movie featuring strong female leads like Ghostbusters or Captain Marvel, people praising a positive nonbinary character, or cheering for women main eventing Wrestlemania. It may not be meant for you, but it is important to someone to see themselves in the media they consume. It was certainly important for me to find characters and music that made me feel less alone and less sad. I can’t begin to fathom how important it is for marginalized individuals to find that same “home” feeling, and that is why I never knock something that isn’t “for me” since it is clearly meant for someone out there.