I went to sleep with the radio on when I was a kid. For a couple of years in the early 80s, I lived in Ellaville, Georgia (I hated it) and the station I listened to was in Columbus and every Sunday night right around bedtime it played the Dr. Demento Show. Dr. Demento introduced me to Weird Al Yankovic and lots of other novelty songs. Obviously, I didn’t fall asleep during the Dr. Demento Show. I bet every political cartoonist listened to Dr. Demento.
One of the songs that seemed to play every Sunday was “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” by Napoleon XIV. There’s no actual singing in the song and the only music is rhythm from drums and hand claps. The speaking is at a normal pace but increases in speed and pitch during the chorus. It comes off as a guy going insane over his girlfriend dumping him but you discover in the end that it’s actually his dog who dumped him. It’s hilarious and a timeless classic.
I wrote this cartoon Friday for CNN but didn’t think they’d take it and I didn’t think I’d draw it for my newspapers either. I was thinking that at this point that the song is too obscure and no one would know what I was talking about. But I had second thoughts this morning with one of those being, “Fuck it. It is a classic.” I know my fellow weirdos will get it instantly and they’ll love it. But maybe it’s not that obscure.
In fact, the song reached number three on the charts in 1966 which comes as news to me because when I was listening to this in 1982, I thought it was new.
Napoleon XIV was actually Jerry Samuels and he didn’t make a career out of novelty songs. He was a singer, songwriter, studio producer, engineer, and talent agent. While working for a record label in New York City, he put together “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” and he made a hit and became a one-hit-wonder. The B-side was the song in reverse, titled, “”!aaaH-aH ,yawA eM ekaT oT gnimoC er’yehT” Rock critic Dave Marsh called it the “most obnoxious song ever” and claims it once cleared out a diner of 40 people in under two minutes.
As I was trying to decide between this cartoon and a few others I wrote on Friday, I did some Googling about the song, wanting to know who Napoleon XIV really was and I discovered that Jerry Samuels died two weeks ago on March 3, 2023, at the age of 84. That nailed it for my choice of which cartoon to draw today. This cartoon is dedicated to Napoleon XIV.
And in case you’re curious, Napoleon XIV died from dementia.
You gotta be a little crazy to write a song like “They’re Coming To Take Me Away! Ha-Haa!” and really crazy to draw cartoons or at least good ones. But you gotta be totally deranged and out of your fucking mind if you’re Donald Trump.
Ha-Haa! Ho-Ho! Hee-Hee! Hoo-Hoo! Ha-Haa!
Watch me draw: