Spaff blames Mad Magazine for planting the seed. “It was in grade school,” he says, when the esteemed satirical rag, its grinning ginger mascot Alfred E.
Neuman and Mad’s self-dubbed “usual gang of idiots” introduced Spaff to the concept of bastardizing intellectual property for yuks. You know, just like “Weird Al” Yankovic.
“It blew my mind,” Spaff recalls. “So I started writing lyrics about food, girls, authority figures—which is pretty much what I write about now. Apparently my sense of humor hasn’t matured a lot.”
Song parodies became a lighthearted pursuit for Spaff, who’d “spam” his work to his family and friends. One day, a buddy sent Spaff’s Iraq-themed spoof of the holiday classic “Sleigh Ride”—aptly retitled “Slay Ride”—to DJs Jimmy Chunga and Mister West at 107.5 The End. “It was during the run-up to the Iraq War, ‘Operation Enduring Bush’ or whatever they were calling it … and a few days later, one of my co-workers yells, ‘Get in here!’ “ Somehow, although he hadn’t the musical capabilities to set his tunes to music, Spaff’s song was on the radio.
The man singing “Slay Ride” was Robert Lund, himself a song parodist, and a coworker of Chunga and Mister at the station’s parent company, Citadel. Spaff immediately called the station, and was put through to Lund. “I’ve been harassing him ever since” is how Spaff explains the pair’s ongoing collaboration, which has spawned dozens of songs like “99 Words for Boobs” (curiously, “Luftballoons” ain’t among ’em) and “Sarah Palin vs. The Flobots,” which you might’ve heard on local radio and even the international novelty music bastion The Dr. Demento Show.
Like so many Utahns, li’l Spaff used to catch Demento’s show every Sunday night on KRSP 103.5 FM. “He would end every show with his ‘Funny Five,’ [counting down] the best comedy songs of the week. Some kids wanted to cure cancer, but I wanted to make the ‘Funny Five.’” To that end, Spaff sent a timely note to Demento, with an MP3 of “I Got Crabs From Darth Vader” (a send-up of Garth Brooks’s “Friends In Low Places”) attached. The track, which Lund embellished with Star Wars sound bites, made the show two weeks in a row. That was cool enough—but in two more weeks “Crabs” hit the “Funny Five.”
“Number freaking 1,” says Spaff. “I was beyond thrilled.”
Since then, Spaff sends Demento everything he and Lund do. Demento has played more than 50 of their songs, leading to more collaborations and achievements for Spaff. Comedian Steve Goodie generated a BP-spill ditty based on the Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water,” and The Moneyshot Cosmonauts recorded Spaff’s Lady Gaga vs. Octomom tune “Pr-Pr-Pr-Procreate.” Another Lund tune, “Shakespearean Pie” (to the tune of Don McLean’s “American Pie”) was mentioned in a college textbook due to its concise summation of The Bard’s Hamlet. And that euphemism anthem “99 Words for Boobs” is on YouTube thanks to fan-created videos—one of which has nearly 3.5 million views.
Alas, song parodies remain a hobby for Spaff, who has made “literally tens of dollars” from his pop song perversions. Just hearing his work come alive is incentive enough to continue—not that Spaff could stop. “I drive around with the radio on ‘scan,’ ” he explains. “At stoplights, I write down the keepers on credit card receipts … I have hundreds of unused ideas. There’s no way I can ever write them all, [but] most of the finished ones get recorded now, and it’s still just as fun as ever to hear the final product.”
As for fame, Spaff is content to remain the man behind the curtain. It’s mainly because, by day, Spaff works for a company with many conservative clients, most of whom wouldn’t dig his anti-Republican tunes or affectionate stabs at Mormons (“Livin’ In Provo, Utah” — a la “Livin’ La Vida Loca”). He figures they wouldn’t accept his explanation that he’s a fiscally conservative, socially liberal libertarian— “but not a capital-L Libertarian, because those people are capital-N Nuts”—and that he “teases” both sides. “But let’s face it: It’s more fun to make fun of conservatives than liberals. That’s where the comedy is.” As for the LDS Church, “I’m probably their most embarrassing member—but they haven’t kicked me out yet.”
So does that mean Spaff—a nickname based on his real one—not only toils in obscurity but forced anonymity? “It’s not like I’m in the witness protection program or anything,” he says. “I don’t hide my light under a bushel. I just don’t go around advertising myself because I would hate to lose my job because they didn’t like a song I did about Sarah Palin or Testimony Meeting. Or peeing in the pool.”