@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
Kidnap Mr. Sandy Claws
“Kidnap the Sandy Claws
Lock him up real tight
Throw away the key and then
Turn off all the lights”
—Nightmare Before Christmas
It’s no secret that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” was one of my favorite childhood movies. Which, in retrospect, is mildly unnerving. Every year, I re-watch it and go, “wow this is weird movie.” It doesn’t make me love it any less. Tim Burton had a way with resonating with misfits, the introverted lonely hearts, with a flare for the darkness but still sweet at the core.
But this isn’t a blog about my love for all things Burton. This about curbing my New York/Long Island accent. I’ve been told my Long Island accent is nearly undetectable, which is a high compliment. Often people think I’m a west coaster, but I suppose this is because in most social situations I spoke very little and dressed more like a surfer kid than an emo kid, though I am equally both.
My mom still has a pretty strong Long Island accent. Even though both my parents grew up on the Island, my dad’s accent isn’t so prominent. Out of us three kids, Lisa definitely has the strongest Long Island accent. There is no disguising where she is from. Mitch and I have more subtle accents.
In high school, I took an acting class and my teacher said that pretty often lawyers take acting classes to shed their accents because people with strong accents (be it Long Island, New York, Boston or Southern) come off as less intelligent. That resonated with me. I then started paying attention to my speech.
The big ones for Long Islanders are: talk, drawer, dog, coffee, long, car, and water. It would be many years later that I would accept or even acknowledge how headstrong I’ve always been (for better or worse) but being a runt my entire adolescence I truly despised being underestimated and didn’t want something as petty as how you say a word to allow anyone to doubt me.
While I’m still very guilty of saying “coffee” wrong and when I booze, the accent slips. But I actually learned to correct some of my speech from movies and music. Oddly enough, or perhaps perfectly apropos for me, ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ taught me a lesson. Specifically the song, “Kidnap The Sandy Claws,” (voiced by the brilliant Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara and Paul Reubens) a pretty wildly fucked up song about three kids in the Halloween world that are going to kidnap Santa Clause and give him to the Boogie Man who will torture and ultimately kill him. Yeah. Those are the types of movies I loved as a sweet and innocent looking child.
Anyway, let’s visit some lyrics:
“Kidnap the Sandy Claws
Throw him in a box
Bury him for ninety years
Then see if he talks”
The key word for me being “talks.” So as I incessantly watched the movie or listened to album, I’d replay that song and repeat that verse over and over. And then, in conversation, if I were to say the word “talk” (or walk), I’d simply play that song in my head.
Now, as I mentioned before, I was equal parts an emo kid and a beach bum. I listened to a lot of Sublime. In the song, “Garden Grove,” Bradley sings:
“You’re a fool
Don’t fuck around with my dog”
There it was. The proper way to say “dog” instead of “dawg.” One of the more annoying words in the Long Island language. I loved that song (still do!) so it was easy for me to listen to it everyday, multiple times a day. Until every time I said the word dog, I would think “don’t fuck around with my dog.” It’s true I curse like a drunk sailor with a vendetta for humanity, but I wouldn’t blame Sublime for this. Even before I started comedy, I cursed a lot outside the presence of adults but once I became a comic, “fuck” became one of my most used words.
New Yorkers are notorious for saying “drawer” like “draw.” This was a harder one for me to break because I didn’t have a lyric to go with it. Until Band of Horses, one of my all time favorite bands, released one of my all time favorite songs, “In A Drawer.” The song also features the word dog AND talk AND taught (which Long Islanders also say wrong).
“Sitting on a bearskin rug
Listening to grandpa talk
The whistle of an odd bird call
A photo of the long lost dog
Do you love me? Which one is it?
We should be living in a warehouse district
I take the day and the lesson it taught me
Passing off blame to anybody is easy
But darling, you know it shouldn’t be like that
Can I go with you to the laundromat?
I found it in the drawer
In the drawer, I found it in a Drawer
Took a little time but now I found it a drawer”
[It’s seriously a great song, listen here.]
I quickly became obsessed with this song and listened to it every day. Soon, it was easy to fix the way I said “drawer.” And now when I hear Long Islanders say “DRAW,” I cringe.
Songs were easier to learn speech from than movies because you can really get them stuck in your head. But as a TV junky from a young age and film addict, I’d listen carefully and I had a knack for memorizing dialogue so it was pretty easy for me to repeat it.
See? Good can from watching too much TV. Coffee is still the one I can’t seem to shake. That word gives me away every time. Though I think a touch of an accent is somewhat charming. Plus, I’ve never been ashamed of being a New Yorker, with all our cynicism and biting humor. We are the type of people who would love “The Nightmare Before Christmas” at age 7.