It’s 3 p.m.! Let The A.V. Club briefly make use of the waning hours of your productivity with some pop culture ephemera pulled from the depths of YouTube.
In 1977, both Italo-American and human-tuber relations received an energetic booster shot in the form of “My Name Is Potato,” a novelty song by pop star Rita Pavone. The single is a delirious artifact of late-’70s kitsch, a call-and-response between Pavone (singing in her native Italian) and the titular starch (hollering in English) that really kicks into gear once it reaches its chorus, in which the former teenybopper takes a few pages from her duet partner and shouts at the top of her lungs “My name is Potato!” It’s a moment of pure musical catharsis, taken to tremendous cartoon heights in the promotional clip for “My Name Is Potato,” in which Pavone sings the line against a backdrop of hand-drawn Americana that includes The Statue Of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, and a soaring metropolitan skyline. It’s three-and-a-half minutes of nonstop, occasionally culturally insensitive (Rita, we have to talk about that headdress) surprises, accompanied by basic scientific facts about Solanum tuberosum: It isn’t an animal, it feeds only on earth (not meat, grass, or eggs), and it occasionally dons an Uncle Sam hat while chomping a massive stogie. Truly, the potato is the most American item in the produce section.
Released a year after Bicentennial fever swept the potato’s homeland, the “My Name Is Potato” video is a surreal glance at the United States from across the Atlantic, 200 years of history distilled into patriotic monuments and cowboys-and-Indians imagery. Given the song’s all-ages appeal and vaguely educational content, this YouTube rip—uploaded by Venture Bros. star James Urbaniak, apparently—is surrounded by autoplay recommendations for the type of algorithm-gaming digital chum that briefly touched off a public outrage last fall. There’s even a fully animated take on “My Name Is Potato,” whose cheery icebox floor show feels like it’s forever a second away from Sausage Party-esque carnage. But try as the automated legions of pregnant Spider-Men and “Wrong Heads Disney Wrong Ears Wrong Legs Kids Learn Colors Finger Family 2017 Nursery Rhymes” might, they’re never going to out-weird the sights and sounds of “My Name Is Potato.” To get footage this genuinely, entertainingly bewildering, you’ve got to go back to the earth.
Happy 4th of July. Abolish ICE and make “My Name Is Potato” the new national anthem.
[via Anthony Ciolino, who introduced this video to me and my wife so long ago, I can’t even remember life without it.]