Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

Reviewed by mojo

When I was a wee lass I was a diehard Monty Python fan. Which has nothing whatsoever to do with Ella and only has a very slight relevance to this song.

I recall seeing something that I don't think was a Monty Python show, but instead some sort of special that had some of the MPFC guys in it. Like one of those "Her Masjesty's Pleasure" sort of things. I don't think it was live on stage but a regular taped sketch. Anyway, what I remember was, John Cleese (one of the FUNNIEST MEN ALIVE in Mojo's estimation) was auditioning for something and was clearly lying his way through the audition. They ask him if he can sing and he says yes, so they hand him the sheet music for "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off".

And then they asked him if he was familiar with the song. Oh, yes, of course. DId he require accompaniment? No, no, it turns out along with every other lie regarding his abilities he could also read music. Okay, so go ahead a cappella then, they say.

So John Cleese begins to, um, "sing" this song. Only it's very clear in the first three notes that he does NOT know the song, he does NOT know how to read music, and in fact he can't even sing. Plus he doesn't use the regional pronounciations that makes this song famous, so he's warbling "You say tomato and I say tomato" which doesn't make sense to him at all. So he keeps shooting these shifty-eyed looks at the people he's trying to impress, and just sort of screeching "Tomato! Tomato! Potato! Potato!" at the top of his lungs. Which was very funny.

Ella does a great job with this, as does Nelson Riddle and his orchestra behind her. It builds nicely as the frustration mounts, and then ends with a great show-bizzy ending. A good song to belt in the car at the top of your lungs. I heartily recommend it--just what the doctor ordered!

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off (1959)

Click below to hear a sample--or scroll down for associated media: 
Disc Number: 
George Gershwin
Ira Gershwin

From Wikipedia:


"Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" is a song written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin for the 1937 film Shall We Dance where it was introduced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as part of a celebrated dance duet on roller skates [1]. The song is most famous for its "You like /təˈmeɪtoʊz/ and I like /təˈmɑːtoʊz/" and other verses comparing their different regional dialects [2].

The song was ranked #34 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Songs [3]

 Notable Recordings