What Does Batman Have To Do With "Jingle Bells"?
Jingle Bells! Batman smells
Robin laid an egg.
Batmobile lost a wheel
And the Joker got away.
Everyone has heard this parody of "Jingle Bells." In fact, for a couple of years Rocks off had recited this version so many times that when called upon to sing the original version we realized we had actually forgotten the words.
It's a funny little parody, with many, many variations - our favorite being where instead of getting away the Joker takes ballet, but where did this famous bit of schoolyard nonsense come from?
If you're Rocks Off's age, then you probably remember rushing home from school in 1992 to catch Batman: The Animated Series. One of the very first episodes of that acclaimed show was "Christmas With the Joker," in which the Ace of Knaves held a TV studio hostage to film his own holiday special.
In that episode The Joker himself sings the song while escaping from Arkham Asylum, so it stands to reason that maybe that's where we all heard it first.
Three years before that, Bart Simpson sang the song in The Simpsons' first Christmas special. Does that mean Matt Groening is the man behind the tune?
The origin of Batman's infiltration of a holiday classic is claimed to be in Ms. Mayhew's 5th grade class at St. Lawrence's Day School in Dunkirk, Indiana. Supposedly - and this is a big supposedly - the parody was penned in 1953 by a student named Kurt Walton, and spread across the world like hula-hoops and bird flu from there.
Research on this issue was undertaken by the University of Some Guy Told Me, so this particular origin story must be taken with a grain of salt.
Even a cursory look through various online forums discussing this issue - and there are a lot more than you might think - shows that people have been singing about smelly Batman since at least the '60s. Since children have been adding their own spin on the lyrics of popular tunes since Cain and Abel, it's possible that other parody versions were rewritten in response to the popularity of the Adam West Batman series.
In the end, until a folklorist really takes as long a look at the subject as they have at "Mary Mary Quite Contrary" or "Ring Around the Roses," we'll just have to go with what the Internet tells us.
Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.
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