Dr. Seuss’s legendary Green Eggs and Ham recently made the news when Ted Cruz read it out loud during his not-really-a-filibuster against Obamacare.
Strange that he would choose this book while decrying something he hadn’t tried. Wasn’t he kind of missing the point?
Mind you, I grew up with Dr. Seuss, and I’m still a very picky eater. I can’t really imagine that green eggs and ham would taste much different from the regular variety, which I love, though. Not that color can’t make a difference. Beth’s uncle once bought that green ketchup, and I found it hard to eat even though it tasted exactly like the red variety. If he’d really wanted to get Sam-I-Am off his back, the narrator should have told him he was a vegetarian. Not only would that mean he couldn’t eat the meat, but it would have been difficult to rhyme. I wonder if green ham comes from green pigs. According to Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking-Glass, a mome rath is a lost green pig. Coincidence? Yeah, probably.
Seuss actually wrote Green Eggs and Ham on a bet from his publisher. When writing The Cat in the Hat, he was reportedly frustrated by how few words were considered acceptable for six-year-olds, but eventually he turned out a book using only selections from a list of 225. When the publisher bet Seuss that he couldn’t write a book using only fifty words, Green Eggs and Ham was the result. The vocabulary may be small, but the book is huge. If not referenced in pop culture quite as much as How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, it definitely comes close. Turning to my own little niche in the pop culture world, “Weird Al” Yankovic has a song where he recites part of the book to the tune of U2’s “Numb.”
The now-defunct mostly-folk band Moxy Früvous also made a song out of Green Eggs and Ham, expanding the basic story with a lot of additional jokes.
While “Green Eggs and Ham” was on their demo tape, it never received a wider release. although they’d frequently perform at least part of it at live shows. I’m pretty sure that, in both cases, the Seuss estate refused to grant permission. Yes, apparently they were okay with the live-action Cat in the Hat movie, but not with a few comedy songs. To be fair about that, however, Seuss’s widow Audrey reportedly hated that film so much that she forbade Hollywood from making any more live-action versions of his books.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the original animated version of Green Eggs and Ham, with Paul Winchell, the voice of Tigger, providing the voice work for both characters. He even does a Tigger laugh when the narrator guy realizes he likes green eggs and ham. The Cat in the Hat, voiced by Allan Sherman, introduces the segment.
The most recent Simpsons Halloween special had a Seuss-based segment called “Oh, the Places You’ll D’oh!”, which unfortunately was pretty bad. I’d say the decision to make it both Seuss AND Halloween worked against it, but really most of the recent Treehouse of Horror episodes have been lackluster. One thing I did appreciate was that it referenced “What Was I Scared Of?” and its pale green pants (blue pants like Homer’s in the parody) with nobody inside them. As far as Seuss references go, though, the show still hasn’t topped Mr. Burns as the Grinch from “Last Exit to Springfield.”