Pen It Like Porter

Cole Porter's tune "You're The Top" features some pretty outdated cultural references, so we asked a few contestants to rewrite the lyrics, and Jonathan Coulton performs the results.

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(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Jonathan, I have a question for you.

JONATHAN COULTON: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Well, actually I'm going to tell you something.

COULTON: OK.

EISENBERG: It could embarrass you.

COULTON: Oh, I'm used to that.

EISENBERG: I recently found out that in college, you were involved in some very questionable activities.

COULTON: I was young.

EISENBERG: Yeah. By that I mean a cappella groups.

COULTON: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS)

EISENBERG: You were part of something called the Wizard Poofs or something?

COULTON: No, they were not called the Wizard Poofs, that's a ridiculous name.

EISENBERG: Is that some sort of Harry Potter...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COULTON: They were called the Whiffenpoofs.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COULTON: I am proud of my a cappella heritage.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE AND CHEERING)

EISENBERG: Oh, audience.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: But that's great because our next game is about Cole Porter who, like you, was also a member of Yale University's Whiffenpoofs. Is that real? Come on. As well as, much like you, one of America's great songwriters. He gave us, of course, I've Got You Under My Skin, Let's Misbehave and this little ditty.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "YOU'RE THE TOP")

EISENBERG: Of course, that doesn't mean his lyrics couldn't use a little updating. So what we've done is a little game we're calling Pen It Like Porter. We've asked our audience to rewrite a few lines of Porter's classics but with modern references. In fact, we've asked them to rewrite these lines. Jonathan, would you like to help me out?

COULTON: Yes, you can tell how dated these are. You're the top, you're Mahatma Gandhi.

EISENBERG: Who?

COULTON: Who? Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: You're the top, you're Napoleon brandy.

COULTON: I've heard of that. You're the purple light of a summer night in Spain.

EISENBERG: No, that doesn't happen.

COULTON: No.

EISENBERG: You're the National Gallery, you're Garbo's salary.

COULTON: You're cellophane.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Which apparently that was an exciting thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Yeah. Yeah, if that's a compliment, right? Things have changed.

COULTON: I guess, yeah.

EISENBERG: You're sublime, you're a turkey dinner.

COULTON: Hooray, you're the time of a Derby winner.

EISENBERG: That's fast. I'm a toy balloon that's fated soon to pop.

COULTON: But if, baby, I'm the bottom, you're the top.

EISENBERG: You're the top, yeah, all right, so...

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: So while we've been busy playing games, our producer has chosen the best two Porter rewrites in our audience. Jonathan will sing each set of lyrics and then we'll ask you, our studio audience, to vote by applause who penned it like Porter the best, who's the top. Are you ready?

COULTON: I'm ready. We need to call these - these two contestants up to the stage, so that we may properly judge and shame you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Is there a Nancy Taubenslag in the audience?

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

COULTON: Come on up, Nancy. The other one is Samantha Henig. Are you here, Samantha?

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Nancy and Samantha. Let's hear them Pen It Like Porter.

COULTON: Okay. So I'm going to play... Nancy, I'm going to play yours first, OK. Are you ready?

(SOUNDBITE OF JONATHAN COULTON PLAYING THE GUITAR AND SINGING)

COULTON: (Singing) You're the top, you're the iPhone Siri, you're the top, you're the Big Bang theory. You're the mega-dough earned from J.K. Rowling's words. You're Blue Ivy's mama, '08 Obama, you're "Angry Birds"! You're elite. You're Cy Twombly's scribble. You're the heat, Jeremy Lin's dribble. I'm a budget bill stuck on Capitol Hill, I'll flop. But if, baby, I'm the bottom, you're the top!

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

COULTON: That's pretty good, a little internal rhy...

EISENBERG: That is great, Blue Ivy is in there?

COULTON: Yes I had to look that up myself. Blue Ivy is Beyonce's daughter apparently.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Okay Samantha, are you ready for your judgment?

SAMANTHA HENIG: I'm ready.

COULTON: Okay here we go, this is Samantha.

(SOUNDBITE OF JONATHAN COULTON PLAYING THE GUITAR AND SINGING)

COULTON: (Singing) You're the top. You're the Gates Foundation. You're the top, you're job creation. You're suburban comfort, two cars and a deck. You're a Gagosian Gallery, you're Romney's salary, adjusted to pre-tax-break dollars. You're nano-tech. You're the bomb. You're a Whole Foods dinner, you're the song of an "Idol" winner. I am backed up hot and fated soon to drop, but just like Beyonce's bottom, you're the top!

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: That is a last line to remember.

COULTON: Yes indeed, yes indeed.

EISENBERG: That is a last line. It's funny how both of them reference Beyonce, she is hot. She is hot. All right, audience, so it's time for you to weigh in and pick who is the top. Both incredible entries, so let's hear it right now for Nancy, our first.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Showered in praise. Okay and how about for Samantha?

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Okay, I think our audience has picked, that was very close but I think it's Nancy. Congratulations, Nancy.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Both are fantastic lyricists. Nancy, for your extreme talent, we have for you an NPR music tote bag to put all your future lyrics within.

NANCY TAUBENSLAG: OMG.

EISENBERG: I know, OMG indeed, there you go. Another hand for the two of them.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

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