In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.
The hater: An oddball comedian as interested in creating experiences as she is in making people laugh, Jo Firestone has performed everywhere around New York, launching events like Ridgefield Middle School Talent Night (a two person, 17-character live action talent show), Punderdome 3000 (a celebration of all things pun), and the NYC Inner Beauty Pageant. She’s also a fan of and host of several live-action game shows, even hosting her own game show-themed radio show, Dr. Gameshow, on WFMU.
Though Firestone does shows in New York all the time, she’ll be in Chicago this June for The A.V. Club’s 3rd Annual 26th Annual Comedy Festival. Tickets for Firestone’s show, and many others, are on sale now.
The hated: Dion, “The Wanderer” (1961)
The A.V. Club: Why is this the song you picked?
Jo Firestone: It’s a very catchy song, right? It gets stuck in your head. It’s played on the oldies station on the radio all the time. But then you sing the lyrics out loud and you’re a sexist monster. So it’s tricky. It’s one of those silent killers.
One of the lyrics is, “I kiss ’em and I love ’em ’cause to me they’re all the same.” So horrible. So horrible.
AVC: “I hug ’em and I squeeze ’em, they don’t even know my name.”
JF: Who is this guy? It’s like he’s a murderer. This is like he’s leaving clues to a crime and it’s unclear what he’s done but he’s done something.
AVC: It feels like he has severe emotional problems.
JF: Sure he does. But it’s catchy. It’s so catchy. It’s played all the time. Dion, he’s going around singing it like it’s no problem at all. It’s scary. It’s frightening.
Also, when he starts to have emotional attachment, he just leaves. He drives away.
AVC: Do you know people like that?
JF: I kind of do, but they’re not going to sing songs about it. They’re embarrassed. They should be embarrassed.
AVC: Dion has said it’s just a song about a guy without a care in the world.
JF: But he does [have one]! He’s got Rosie tattooed on his chest. Clearly he cares a little bit. And he thinks about these women but he has to move around.
Can you imagine this man’s taxes? It’s insane! He must work for the carnival.
AVC: But who wants to be with a guy that works for the carnival?
JF: I think he’s great. He’s a sociopath who has figured out a way to get women to hug him and squeeze him and then he sees them as all the same.
You know what? Maybe he doesn’t move around. Maybe he kills people and then… I think we have something bigger on our hands.
AVC: There’s also a lot of machismo here. It’s “I’m just a guy, having a good time doing what guys would love to do.”
JF: I know! But nobody wants this! He’s alone in the world. He has no friends, and the only connection, the only point of contact he has are these women that he doesn’t even know! It’s sad.
AVC: What do you think happened to him? How did he become this?
JF: Great question. I mean, I think it’s the mother. It must be the mother.
AVC: What did she even do?
JF: You know, I think this is an epidemic. This is a sickness deep down. It’s not just one woman that burned him. He’s not even mad about it. He’s gotten past the point of bitterness to where he’s accepting it. Embracing it as his lifestyle. Nicknaming himself.
AVC: Maybe Rosie is his mom.
JF: Whoa! Yes! Rosie is his mom! Oh my god. Yeah. Yeah. Uh-huh.
AVC: I don’t know what else there is to say about “The Wanderer” except that it’s demeaning to women and scary.
JF: My hope is that, if anyone reads this article, that they go quickly to play the song and then it gets stuck in their head for a week and then they’re like, “Oh my gosh. I understand now. I understand the power.”
AVC: Maybe it turns the listener into a psycho robot.
JF: Whoa. Yeah.
AVC: I kind of want to listen to it again but now I’m afraid of it.
JF: You kind of have to. I’m probably going to listen to it again after we talk. Play it for the people in my office. Say, “This is kind of a fun one, right?” People will be singing along and dancing like it’s nothing. It’d be like if there was a song that was like, “Go kill your daddy, and go kill your mom…” And it’d be like, “Yeah, I’ll listen to that,” you know?
AVC: There’s always the excuse of, “Well, it’s from a different time.”
JF: I know. Someone was probably like “You wanna go neck to ‘The Wanderer’”? And a woman might not have even questioned it, and just thought, “Yeah, that’s a song to neck to.”
AVC: But the guy that likes that song is going to love you and leave you.