What can one person do about racism, gun violence, climate change, income inequality, bigotry, ignorance, war and greed? “Write funny songs,” says Roy Zimmerman.
Over twenty years on stages, screens and airwaves across America, Roy has brought the sting of satire to the struggle for Peace and Justice. His songs have been heard on HBO and Showtime. He has recorded for Warner/Reprise Records. His YouTube videos have garnered over seven million views, and he’s a featured blogger for the Huffington Post.
This year, Roy has made a campaign promise – along with his wife and co-writer Melanie Harby – to post a new Song of the Week every week until Election Day. And he’s touring furiously, trying to keep up with the absurdity of this election season.
He’s calling his show “This Machine,” a reference to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger to be sure, but also an acknowledgement that songwriting does good work in the world. “Sometimes I think satire is the most hopeful form of expression,” says Roy, “because in calling out the world’s absurdities and laughing in their face, I’m affirming the real possibility for change.”
Zimmerman has shared stages with Bill Maher, Ellen DeGeneres, Robin Williams, Holly Near, Arlo Guthrie, John Oliver, The Roches, Andy Borowitz, The Chambers Brothers and George Carlin. He’s done several shows with The Pixies’ Frank Black, swapping songs in a solo acoustic setting, and provided comic commentary to the live premiere performance of Black’s score for the classic silent film “Der Golem.”
The world is full of funny songs, but Zimmerman’s hilarious, rhyme-intensive originals are also incisive calls to action, smart, savvy and undeniable. There’s a post-hypnotic suggestion to “Vote Republican,” a love song in “Citizens United” and a soothing reassurance from Big Oil spilling through “The Faucet’s on Fire!” There’s a decidedly Humanist side to his satire – a lesson in “Creation Science 101,” an affirmation that “Everybody Is Everybody Else” and a four-minute history of America called “Religious Freedom (to Burn Our Own Witches).”
And there are unabashed progressive anthems like “Hope, Struggle and Change” and “My Vote, My Voice, My Right.”
Roy’s songs are often played on progressive radio by Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Randi Rhodes, Thom Hartmann, and others. His Songs of the Week are spun regularly by folk music DJ’s across the country and he’s a frequent guest on Sirius Radio’s syndicated show “West Coast Live.”
Roy’s performance of his song “I’m Fired” is featured in the Showtime film “Fired!” And he sings his song “Ted Haggard is Completely Heterosexual” in Alexandra Pelosi’s HBO documentary “The Trials of Ted Haggard.” Mr. Haggard himself said of the song, “It’s really bad — I mean, it’s poorly done — but it’s funny.”
Zimmerman founded and wrote all the material for the comedy folk quartet The Foremen, who recorded for Warner/Reprise Records. The Foremen toured extensively, playing the nation’s major folk venues, a lot of fancy Progressive benefits, Pete Seeger’s Clearwater Festival (under an overpass in the rain) and CBGB.
The group was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and many other syndicated talk radio shows. They shared the air with Al Franken on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.” They got to sing Zimmerman’s lampoon of Oliver North, “Ollie Ollie Off Scot Free” directly to the colonel himself on North’s own syndicated show. “Friends,” said North, “this is a very weird group.”
On the rare occasion that they’re home, Roy and Melanie live in Northern California. Otherwise they’re on the road, and Roy is doing shows in some of the least Progressive places in America for the most Progressive people there – the “Blue Dots” he calls them. “I get accused of ‘preaching to the choir,’” he says, “but that’s not how I think of it. I think of it as ‘entertaining the troops.’”
“Zimmerman is a guy on the left skewering folks on the right with rapier-sharp lyrics … underneath the caustic satire is a man who is surprisingly optimistic.” — Sing Out!
“You’re brilliant. Just brilliant!” — Terry Jones, Monty Python
“Without a doubt, Roy Zimmerman is among the most important political commentators of the last few decades, and in the end, it’s the music that unites and disarms. With music this good and humor this insightful, there is good reason to be optimistic.”
“Roy Zimmerman has such a solid track record poking fun at Republicans and right-wing assholes in general that we’re happy to let him claim the satirist sobriquet. There may be an element of preaching to the choir to what he does, but a good hoot is worth more than the illusion of balance.”
“One of the funniest, most musical and meaningful comedians you’ll ever experience.” — Ed Pearl, the Ash Grove
“Bobby Kennedy meets Bobby Dylan”
“Roy Zimmerman lifted the evening with his song ‘Chickenhawk’ ridiculing the military policies of Bush administration officials who didn’t serve in the armed forces. Zimmerman’s squawking and clucking conveyed his scorn with contagious irreverence.”
“It was great to hear all those old Foremen songs again, and to be reminded of your lyrical brilliance. Just excellent.”
“Roy Zimmerman has a rare gift for songwriting.
“…this was no ordinary man. This was Roy Zimmerman, a unique type of superhero who possesses the power to nearly coax urine from the unwilling bladders of his audience members (via laughter). He delivered some of the smartest satirical songs that I’d ever heard.”
Gilbert Gottfried: “What musical comedy acts do you like now?”
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