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We spoke to Weird YouTube’s most gifted TV theme song lyricist
Jeffrey Davis is just trying to explain television—one tune at a time.
Jeffrey Davis was sitting with his sisters watching daytime television when a rerun of the ’90s sitcom Coach came on. He started singing.
“Co-co-co-coach coach coach coach coooach!” he crooned. “This show’s abouuuut a coach! Craig T. Nelsonnnn, he plays the coach!”
Davis was born in 1986, up in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, and now makes his bread as an animator. But in October 2007, he began uploading a handful of strange video remixes and sketches. Then, between 2010 and 2012, he recorded 141 theme songs. Most of them average a couple thousand views, and plenty of them have pissed people off.
“I would listen to the theme once or twice, then improvise the lyrics as weirdly and vaguely as possible,” Davis told the Daily Dot. “I wanted to sound like I’ve never watched the show before and confuse people.”
It’s not that he wanted to infuriate folks just looking to relive a little of their childhoods, but toying with them quickly became part of the fun. “Losing your temper over a TV theme song is the biggest waste of emotions I have ever seen,” he said—so he’d wind negative commenters by inviting them “to a BBQ or a sleepover.”
None of them knew how to respond. How do you contend with an Internet enemy asking you to come over and party? More confusion, more anger.
Davis’s persona as boinky333 exhibits the same childlike idiocy and puerile antagonism of Weird Twitter‘s @dril, and he’s got the Jack Nicholson avatar to match. Only where @dril shadowboxes with made-up trolls like MetalGearEric, Davis riffs with ostensibly real people. When someone likes the part of the Coach theme where he sings “Co-co-co-coach,” Davis responds, “Please don’t make fun of my stutter.”
The thread beneath his Mission Hill theme is especially incredible. When commenter kenneth mabie exposed Davis’s video as a “fake”—the real theme song being Cake’s “Italian Leather Sofa”—Davis tried to convince the guy that he was the lead singer of Cake.
The commenter then demanded Davis release a song with Cake that included mabie’s name to prove he wasn’t lying: “either youhave to say ken mabie or kenney mabie ok do that and ill believe you and retract all privious comments on your video [sic].”
Dude never got his Cake song, but he did get a reply from Davis: “I watch you poop and masturbate, Ken Mabie. I’m going to beat you up too. I’m the cake man and I say allright a lot. GET OVER IT!”
A year later, in the same comment thread, Davis returned to invite mabie to a party. “Come over if you can make it and bring cheese dip.” All this adds a dimension to Davis’ character that takes it beyond weird fan videos and into the realm of performance art.
Davis’ most viewed theme song is for Thomas the Tank Engine, wherein he casts the blue steamer as a switchblade-wielding thug. Injecting sinister subtext into kids entertainment is an old trope, but while Davis can easily turn a series in on itself, sometimes he’s best conjuring filth out of nothing.
When it comes to Babar, Davis exposes the cartoon pachyderm king’s brutal imperialistic tendencies with lines like: “Oh, Babar / The king of elephants / Will behead / All known traitors / And stick their head / Upon a wooden pi-i-ike!” and “Babar is an unforgiving king / He shall slay you if you cross his path.”
In the Art Attack video, Davis wilfully misinterprets the name of the show as being a cockney pronunciation of the phrase “heart attack”: “Oh no / I’m ‘avin’ / a ‘art attack / Please call the hospital / Take take take me to the hospital!”
And in the Rupert theme song, after putting on a Transatlantic accent appropriate to the bourgeois setting of the show, he mysteriously adds a second speaker toward the end who claims to have seen Rupert punch his own dad.
For the most part, however, Davis tried his best “to be strange but stay somewhat sweet and innocent.” And by 2012, he said, he’d almost run out of steam. He’d taken to singing theme songs for shows he hadn’t seen, but it was more fun for him when he had some understanding of the show.
Davis soon kicked off a new series: theme songs for each president of the United States. Crafted with the same intent as the TV theme songs—namely, “to weird people out”—he took a break after Lyndon B. Johnson (“a haunting French romp”), then “plowed through the rest to appease the seven fans I accumulated.”
Very few tunes involved any actual writing. Instead he’d sing over production music and see what worked. “Grover Cleveland is reggae,” Davis explained. “Bill Clinton is a Devo sound-alike. Woodrow Wilson is death metal. I just wanted to cover all my musical bases.”
That Davis would turn out an EDM banger for Obama, America’s Millennial President, only seems appropriate.
Davis is done with theme songs for now. Instead, he has jimmy, a band formed with his roommate Dougall by way of getting high together and jamming out in the basement. “There are hours of very, very bad, almost unlistenable stuff,” Davis said, but enough to put out two full-length albums on Bandcamp and a couple of bizarre jingles on YouTube, including one for Pizza Hut.
“That came from a failed session where we tried to create jingles for businesses around our neighborhood, burn it on CD, and leave it for them to find,” he said.
Since I spoke to Davis, jimmy has released a new song, “Fat Baby Suite.” It’s a surreal funk jam about a fat baby; it’s also his first upload in nine months. He’s mostly focused on animation projects, but he promised that he hasn’t left YouTube behind just yet.
“I have been hankering to make more videos lately,” he said, “so there should be some new stuff this year.” Then he added: “Maybe.”
Photo via schmilblick/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)