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YOU Make the Connection!

April 13th, 2008 by Mike Nelson · 28 Comments

piston wI was searching for information about the great American composer/scholar/pedagogue Walter Piston (his book Harmony was the text for my 1st class in Music Theory. Fascinating, huh? No? Not at all? Hm, I see what you’re saying. I shan’t ever drop that trivia at a dinner party unless I want out of there.) when I came across this video, which I found far more interesting than anything Walter Piston-related. (I love the guy, but watch it and I think you’ll agree.)


Now, see if you can figure out how it is my search for Walter Piston, and its various rabbit trails, led me to this. It’s not linear, and doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I wouldn’t be totally shocked if someone out there was able to make the connection.


Excellent (WRONG!) answers, all. But it’s like this: Because Walter Piston taught so many luminaries and his image was one of the bookish, subdued Yankee, pipe always at hand, I casually wondered if the name Walter Piston was the inspiration for Thurber’s Walter Mitty, a bookish, subdued Yankee*. A search for Walter Mitty yielded this:


The great Danny Kaye, of course, played Walter Mitty in the film. Now, I think you’ll agree it’s a short leap from Danny Kaye to this fellow:

*There is no evidence that he was the inspiration, but it’s not a bad theory, eh? What’s that? It is a bad theory? I see your point. I won’t raise it again.

Tags: RiffTrax

28 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Smiley on Apr 13, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Honestly, I have no idea, but I have to admit, I miss Jim Varney.

  • 2 Kleenex on Apr 13, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    He wrote the original score for ‘Ernest Goes To Jail’. Everybody knows that.

  • 3 Chris on Apr 13, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    “After the war, Piston entered Harvard and began to study music in earnest”

    That sentence comes up on a lot on web pages about Walter Piston…

    Maybe saying or even writing the word “Earnest” brings Jim Varney out … kinda like the BBC’s Noseybonk…

  • 4 Take5 on Apr 13, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    “Earnest Takes Music Theory” was an instant classic and it changed my life (although “Ernest Explores the La Brea Tar Pits” was quite a journey in its own right). I can see where the connection comes from. Of course, the link could have also been from a search for my very favorite movie of all time (after “Earnest Tries LSD”), “Ernest Meets Walter Piston.”

  • 5 Take5 on Apr 13, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    Haha, oops. Ernest*

  • 6 Rufus T. on Apr 13, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    10,000 flights of angels are not nearly enough to sing me to sleep after that horrid video.

  • 7 Queen Bee on Apr 13, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    This makes about as much sense as anything: Mike Nelson is ALL ABOUT improving your marriage. Assuming you have one. Mine, at any rate.
    See, Spatula and I , married 9 months today, finally got around to watching the “300″ Rifftrax, and he was highly amused by the queen’s “thunderbucket” reference. Spatula has the entire bottom floor of our townhouse as his man cave, provided he cleans it, which happens precisely as often as you might expect. But we were expecting guests, and I didn’t want to be all naggy-wifey in demanding that he de-grossify the toilet, so I decided that it’s all in the asking. I put my arms around him and said, “You know what would be great in your man cave? A nice, clean thunderbucket.” He was so happy that the word “thunderbucket” had returned to our household that he not only cleaned his man cave thunderbucket, but the upstairs one, too.
    Michael J. Nelson: Champion of cleanliness and marriage, First Knight of the Usefulness of Thunderbucketry. Thanks, Mike!

  • 8 Courtney on Apr 14, 2008 at 6:11 am

    Isn’t it obvious?

    Walter Piston was Verne. I thought everyone knew that.

  • 9 Yanni on Apr 14, 2008 at 6:39 am

    Walter Piston is 12 letters, and Ernest P. Worrell is 14. Ernest is played by Jim Varney, which is 9 letters. Now, 12 + 14 = 26, and 12 – 9 = 3. 26 – 3 is 23!!!!! OMG!!!!

  • 10 Shawn on Apr 14, 2008 at 7:41 am

    YouTube had it as a Related Video? Seriosuly, some of the things YouTube spits up as ‘related’ show a very severely disturbed program.

    That said, Ernest Goes To Jail is one of the unsung classics. Of fast-food placemats, not movies.

  • 11 Tv Miller on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:15 am

    My guess is it is somehow related to Ernest Bloch.

  • 12 Mike Nelson on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Excellent guess… but WRONG!

  • 13 Mike Nelson on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:27 am

    My wife, in turn, will be so proud. I hope to have a chevron made up signifying my title “First Knight of the Usefulness of Thunderbucketry.”

  • 14 Mike Nelson on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:27 am


    But WRONG!

  • 15 Mike Nelson on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Another excellent guess, that, like so many before it, is WRONG!

  • 16 Mike Nelson on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:30 am

    The most erudite answer… also the WRONG!-est!!

  • 17 Mike Nelson on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:32 am

    Ernest/Earnest… either way, it’s WRONG!

  • 18 Tv Miller on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:32 am

    Walter Piston died on Nov. 12. Bach went to jail on Nov. 9…

    I’m trying to stretch it out even further with the painting on the wall, the pipe reference, the advent of the diminished symbol.

    Nothing. Sticking with Ernest Bloch.

  • 19 Mike Nelson on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Hm, yes, I see… mm hm… interesting…

    And WRONG!

  • 20 Courtney on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Mike. Why must crush my spirit? It’s like I. don’t. even. know you anymore!

    *sobs in the corner*

    *sniff* Knowhuddimean? *sob*

  • 21 Courtney on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:38 am

    …Huh. That was supposed to reply to my response. Huh. The internets is out to get me.

  • 22 Tv Miller on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:45 am

    Okay. Piston was born in Rockland, Maine. An early celebrity actress also born there was Maxine Elliot. She dated a boxer/actor named James Corbett…wait, wrong connection.

    Leonard Bernstein, no American Academy of Arts and Sciences, no…darn you Michael J. Nelson! My hair hurts.

  • 23 Mike Nelson on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:56 am

    The internets has reacted appropriately, given your intense level of WRONG!-ness.

  • 24 Tv Miller on Apr 14, 2008 at 8:59 am

    I quit. I’ve seen The Incredible Flutist lead to Spaceballs rescored and a small Korean kid play Hey Jude. I’ve seen Nashville “legend” and prison guard Rick Finney sing. I did enjoy the several symphonies, but I’m good.

    *cleans hands*

  • 25 Indianadelae on Apr 14, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Ummm….legend has it Mr. Piston (according to my office-mate) was known for his handwriting….and Ernest just bit a pen in half. Is the connection ink related?

    Don’t blame me for the obvious wrongness of my answer….blame my office-mate, the only physical anthropologist in history to even know how Walter Piston was.

  • 26 edgewriter on Apr 14, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    What you are all missing is the even quicker leap from Jim Varney to:

  • 27 alanw on Apr 15, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    My harmony professor always said that Piston had awsome penmanship…he mentioned it like 5 times a class…

  • 28 SarahCanuck on Apr 22, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Someone who recognises the greatness of Danny Kaye! I dub thee cool.