Tom Smith
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Tom Smith

Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States | SELF

Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States | SELF
Band Comedy Singer/Songwriter


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Dr. Demento"

"One of our great wordsmiths today." -

"Steve Jackson"

"[And They Say I've Got Talent] is in the running for Best Tom Smith Album Yet. Stevie LIKES it.... I'm going now to listen to 'Rock Me Amidala' again." -

"Larry Niven"

"I think you've got Tom Lehrer Disease." - award-winning author

"Peter B. Gillis"

... Tom's stage presence is, initially, unassuming. Just a guy with a guitar, rotund, indifferently dressed (not that there's anything wrong with that!) with a music stand of dog-eared sheets that fall to the floor once in a while. Absolutely no distance between him and the audience.

None of that matters when Tom begins to work.

He's fast, he's witty, he plays as well as any folk musician and has a warm, hearty voice.... Many of Tom's songs are song parodies, but others are traditional folk song structures adapted for talking about, well, having sex with aliens and getting drunk on alien beverages--and others are his own well-constructed songs. No one-trick pony he.

And boy, he works the crowd. Most don't need to be worked: they sang along even when he didn't ask them to. But he plays and talks and doesn't miss a beat when someone shouts out a comment. He picked on (with utmost kindness) a woman who had never seen him perform before--and nearly had her convulsed with the laughter of surprise.

The fascinating and wonderful thing was that I could just feel the sense of community being built by this performance. Tom was referencing everybody's common experience as fans.... If it's part of Fandom's common culture, and is part of the stuff that binds the community together even if it isn't SF or Fantasy, it was legitimately part of the show.

And did I mention he was funny?... His big closer, "Rocket Ride" (a paean to all the B-Movie 50's cadillac-fin spaceship stories of our childhood and all the sensawunda they embodied in all that tinsel) is just one flat-out great song. Hell, if Bruce Springsteen sang it he'd have the crowd on its feet stomping and cheering.

So I left Tom's concert delighted, moved--and enlightened.... In the words of George S. Patton, Jr., "A man that eloquent has got to be saved!" - No Time To Explain, Feb. 16, 2005

"Tomorrow You'll Pay A Buccaneer For Corn?"

... International Talk Like a Pirate Day (TLAPD), which adopted Treasure Island star Robert Newton as its patron saint, now attracts fans from as far afield as Britain and Australia and even boasts a special Wikipedia site on the Internet.

The day even has its own unofficial anthem -- American Tom Smith has written and recorded "Talk Like a Pirate Day".... - Reuters, Sept. 18, 2007

"The Last Hero On Earth"

If you haven't heard Tom Smith in person or on disk, this is a great place to begin your acquaintance with a unique talent.

Tom Smith, a native of Ann Arbor, Mich., is a filksinger who plays a lot of SF conventions around the Midwest, and he—uh, what? No, I didn't misspell it; it's "filk," not "folk." That's fannish folksinging, if you will, in which common melodies are dressed out with rewritten lyrics of a contemporary and often humorous nature.

Some filkers write original material, too. Smith not only writes original stuff, he writes it awfully bloody fast. He penned the 20 songs here in—wait for it—one day. He admits, though, that "some of the shtick, and an extra verse here and there, were written later."

Last Hero is billed as a comic opera, and it is. It's certainly funny, laugh-out-loud funny in places, and it's also comic in the sense that its characters are comic-book superheroes. The tunes here are all fairly short, with only the last one breaking the four-minute mark. Think Gilbert and Sullivan meet Weird Al Yankovic. Smith sings and plays quite well, and has put together some very good backing.

The album opens up with "What If?" in which his heroes, members of the Heroes League, are introduced: a group of do-gooders who have from childhood wanted to help humanity. Now, with years of training and acquired powers and gadgets, that's what they do. Smith has a knack for clever lyrics and catchy melodies. The album is also quite well produced, with interesting voice filters (lots of characters here) and nice stereo effects.

Did I mention this is funny?

The second band, "Mad Scientists United," introduces the villains, who are anxious to eliminate the heroes so that they can (of course) rule the world. "We don't work together very well," they sing; "We don't call each other on the phone." But they have decided to put aside their differences and rid themselves of the superheroes once and for all. "I've got some earthquake pills I can hide inside some birdseed," one of the bad guys sings, referencing one of Wile E. Coyote's schemes.

The problem is that they can't agree on what to do—not until a heretofore unknown member of their group speaks up ("The Sinister Cavortings of Sir Wilfred P. Huffelbaggins III") with a plan involving 60 specially built androids who steal the powers of the good guys and teleport them to a distant planet. This leaves just one man, the titular hero, to save Earth. But this is The Waffle, a superhero wannabe who is armed only with a syrup gun…

Of course, The Waffle manages to get himself teleported off to an alien planet, where he and a beautiful princess seem destined to be wed. The problem is, they don't love one another, which they admit in "A Million Light Years of Love," which is a rare bit of seriousness on this marvelously entertaining disc. With the help of alien technology, the Waffle is returned to Earth, where he manages to free the other heroes ("Hey! Didn't You Die?"), save the world and be reunited with his love in time for everyone to get together for a big finish: "With Great Power Comes Great Power Bills."

And so, yes, it is all very silly, but it's funny, and surprisingly touching in places, and the tunes are both clever and catchy. If you haven't heard Tom Smith in person or on disk, this is a great place to begin your acquaintance with a unique talent.

The disk includes 10 outtakes, too, to add to the fun. Be forewarned—Smith's planning something called "Lovecraft: The Musical Comedy." The Great Old Ones doing a buck-and-wing? — A.L. Sirois - Sci Fi Weekly, July 4, 2007

"Arrr Matie! Wednesday is Talk Like A Pirate Day"

Avast, me hearties! For those not in the know, Wednesday is International Talk Like a Pirate Day and, believe or not, there's a local connection.

Ann Arbor resident Tom Smith wrote what's become the event's official theme song, "Talk Like a Pirate Day," back in 2003.

It goes, in part:

"For I dream of the skull and the crossbones,
I dream of the great day to come,
When I dump the mundane for the Old Spanish Main
And trade me computer for rum! ARRR!"

Smith makes his living performing in a genre known as filk, the music of the science fiction and fantasy community, at various sci-fi fan conventions around the country. And he's delighted at the added notoriety the song has brought him, usually around this time of year.

"Every once in a while I get noticed for it," Smith said of the song. "(Radio DJ) Dr. Demento played the thing extensively last year and the year before; I've had people who want me to do private parties on Talk Like a Pirate Day."

Started as an inside joke between friends John Baur and Mark Summers, International Talk Like a Pirate Day gained exposure when the pair sent a letter about their invented "holiday" to humor columnist Dave Barry, who wrote about it in 2002. The idea quickly caught on.

Pirate or no, it seems like the thing to do tomorrow would be to buckle on your inner swash, hoist the skull and crossbones (this can be done figuratively) and set sail to Smith's Web site,

According to Smith, starting Wednesday, "Talk Like a Pirate Day" will be available for free download, thus saving precious pirate booty. ARRR. -- Roger LeLievre - The Ann Arbor News, Sept. 18, 2007

"Misfit Minstrels"

... "A lot of us are social misfits and don't know how to talk to people," says Tom Smith, an affable, bearded mountain of a man. "This is how we do it." Smith is known as the world's fastest filker. To prove it, he removes his guitar from a case covered with Geek Speak and Dr. Demento stickers, and composes a ditty:

I'm writing this for Alanna Nash.
She's working for Wired;
they're paying her cash.
I hope her interview will include me.
I hope that they'll put me on page 23!.... - Wired, March 2006

"Filk Musician Among ChattaCon Illuminati"

The 34th annual Chattacon science and fantasy fan convention this weekend will feature a wealth of activities ranging from discussions of ghost hunting and fencing demonstrations to indoor laser tag.

The convention’s featured guests this year are game designer Steve Jackson, filk musician Tom Smith, authors David Weber and Katherine Kurtz and artists Michael and Paul Bielaczyc.

Here are some excerpts from our conversation with Smith, about what filk music is and why the music connects with nonconventioneers. (For the full interview, visit

Q: How would you define filk music?

A: The (definition) I’m most fond of giving is that it’s the music of science-fiction fandom. ... Most of the time, in the distant past, filk was basically a bunch of people sitting around singing a bunch of traditional folk songs where the lyrics had been tweaked so that they were space epics or fantasy epics. ... I count the soundtracks to the last half-dozen Disney movies as filk. “Space Oddity” by David Bowie may be a folk song, but Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom” is a filk of that. It’s shooting off the original work in a new direction.

Q: Where did the term come from?

A: Back in the days before the Internet, there used to be a lot of fanzines. In the ’50s, apparently, someone misspelled “folk” when they were talking about folk musicians sitting around late at night, and it came out as “filk.” Karen Anderson, the wife of author Poul Anderson, saw that fanzine and said, “That’s it. That’s what we’re doing.”

Q: Can those who aren’t well-read in science fiction or fantasy or who don’t attend conventions still appreciate the music?

A: Absolutely. Part of the idea of a filk song is, depending on how obscure and esoteric it is, to get somebody into it. A lot of people do things that are about very well-known works. Others do not-so-well-known works, which require a different approach.

It’s music. It’s just like any other kind of music. You come in and find out what it’s about. If there’s not something that interests you in one song, maybe there will be in the next. If there’s something that does interest you, I can guarantee you there are a couple thousand more songs that will work, too.

Q: Is there a market for filk music outside of fan conventions?

A: Absolutely the market is there. It’s funny because two of my friends were talking, and I got the line fed back to me that “The Geek Wars are over, and we won.”

Look at some of the more popular TV shows right now. People are very aware of the way the world has changed. “Battlestar Galactica” is being brought up as the best show. ... The biggest things at the box office have been “Dark Knight” and “Wall-E.” Of course there’s a market for it. Anything involving imagination is fair game.

Q: Are there any characters that it’s taboo to make fun of?

A: I do all the time. (Laughs.) Are you kidding? In the case of the prequel trilogy of “Star Wars,” it’s almost necessary to make fun of it to keep your sanity. There’s no really taboo subject, if you do it well enough. Having as much respect for the source material as it deserves, I love “Star Wars” — I adore it — but I hate the prequel trilogy, so I have no problem making fun of that. I also have no problems making fun of regular “Star Wars.” I have a song called “The 12 Days of Star Wars” that does exactly that. I make fun of the whole scenario, but I’m not saying, “You ‘Star Wars’ people suck.” -- Casey Phillips - Chattanooga Times Free Press, Jan. 22, 2009


Herbert West: The Musical (2010, forthcoming)
Ends 'n' Odds (2010)
More Than FuMP (2009)
Sins of Commission 2 (2009)
Songs of The FuMP, Vol. 1 (2008)
iTom 4.0: Smith and Legend (2007)
iTom 3.0: True Love Waits (2007)
iTom 2.0: Transitions (2007)
iTom 1.0: And So It Begins (2006)
Sins of Commission (2006)
The Last Hero On Earth (2005)
Homecoming: MarCon 2005 (2005)
And They Say I've Got Talent (2004)
Badgers and Gophers and Squirrels Oh My: The 24-Hour Project (2004)
Live At GAFilk (2004)
Debasement Tapes (1999)
Tom Smith and his Digital Acoustic Compilation (1998)
Plugged (1997)
Domino Death (1994)
Who Let Him In Here? (1991)



Tom is NOT your ordinary folk-rocker, or even your ordinary comedy musician. With the lyrical complexity of Ashman and Sondheim, the vocal fireworks of Meat Loaf, the comedic timing of Robin Williams, and the dynamic physique of the Skipper from Gilligan's Island, the only thing he won't do is be boring. No one alive combines the musical chops, the bizarre yet somehow plausible premises, the catchy tunes, and the barrage of godawful puns that Tom Smith brings to the table. And no one is likelier to break your heart with one song, your head with the next, and your funny bone with the one after that.