M: My oldest child, a 4th grader this year, has taken a liking to drama recently. It led to a lead role in our church Christmas play this past winter, and more recently a role as a Who in the chorus of our town’s high school’s performance of Seussical The Musical. Don’t worry, I’m not here to review a small town high school drama production, or a 9 year old’s part in it, although I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the former, and was extremely proud of the latter. No, you see, seeing the Seussical reminded me of one of my favorite Seuss-inspired moments.
E: And unless you know us very well, it’s not one you’d probably expect.
M: Like most people in the last half century or more, the Quibbling Siblings all grew up loving Dr Seuss books, movies, TV specials and even adaptations turned into musicals (co-written by Monty Python’s Eric Idle, no less!). E and I, who are a good bit older than C, used to read many of his books to her when she was little. (E: That’s probably the point where I became really aware of the political bent of many of the books: “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”) I think the ones we wore out the pages of the most were probably If I Ran the Circus (aka The Circus McGurkus) and Yurtle The Turtle and Other Stories, but there were so many.
E: The Lorax! and To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street!
M: Like One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Hop on Pop, Fox in Socks, and of course The Cat in the Hat…. Oh, we could probably go on all day, as I’d guess many of you could too, about favorite Dr Seuss stories, or memories surrounding them.
E: Oooh, like the Seuss-style scene at the – was it the Chinese Embassy?- in Moonlighting!
M: Not the Chinese Embassy, but it was an embassy and they were looking for someone Chinese. See it here.
But that’s also not what we’re here for this time. Right now I’m here to share with you the greatest reading of any Dr Seuss book, well, um, ever. Go ahead, prove me wrong.
What you need to know before you watch is that this was done just after Dr Seuss, real name Theodor Seuss Geisel, passed away in late September of 1991. Saturday Night Live, always one to try to put something together at the spur of the moment, took some time out of Weekend Update to memorialize the author by having one of his most famous works, Green Eggs and Ham, read on air. The orator chosen, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, was an unlikely choice, but it turned out to be pure genius. Setting aside any politics, he delivered the children’s classic as he would a Sunday sermon. His halting preacher’s style, passion, elocution and skill with an audience made for such a unique and fitting tribute that I’ve remembered it frequently over the past two decades.
E: I remember how stunned my friends and I were that someone of Jackson’s stature would go on SNL in the first place (politicians didn’t do that back in those days), and that he had a sense of humor.
M: That’s actually still shocking.
E: Listening to the cadence, as he proclaimed “I do like them, Sam… I am,” thundering as if the words expressed the very wrath of God. It was such a grace note – such a moment of joy and hilarity. We, clearly, will never forget it.
M: Absolutely, and not only that, but I’ll never read it the same, either, I always do my best Rev. Jackson when I read it now. So, in honor of Dr Seuss, and in part my daughter (E: Who was, by the way, a fantastic Who. M: I thank you, resoundly, I thank you, I do!), I bring to you, the Reverend Jesse Jackson reading Green Eggs and Ham. Enjoy!
The first clip is the full reading, but the quality is not great, the second is shorter, but better quality.