I had never really looked into The Mad Show, a 1960s off-broadway musical hit based on Mad, the satirical comics magazine, but I happened to look at its Wikipedia page for some reason, and there I saw, in the song listings, “Misery Is…”
Now, this isn’t the song that anyone talks about from The Mad Show; despite having run for years, the main reason anyone mentions the show these days is that one song in it was pseudonymously written by Stephen Sondheim… but this is not that song. (That one is “The Boy From…”) So I called out “Alexa, play ‘Misery…’ Is from The Mad Show“, and no, I’m not just being crazy, I actually have a device that responds to such things. With a little negotiation, I got it to play the song. And it wasn’t something trying to be a note-for-note match with the song “Happiness” from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, but it was in that spirit, with three kids (or actors, including Linda Lavin and Paul Sands, playing kids) singing about the things that caused misery. So I reckoned they were poking a bit of fun at the hot off-Broadway show of the moment.
Only, that didn’t work. While their off-Broadway runs overlapped, it was actually The Mad Show that came out first, hitting the Off White Way in 1966, while Charlie Brown would not land there until the following year. And this song wasn’t tacked in later, it was on the 1966 Original Cast soundtrack recording. “But wait!” I hear you cry, “might they be parodying the song from its first appearance, the 1966 You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown concept album that served as the basis for the stage musical?” Checking the jacket notes for the original Mad Show recording, it mentions that it was a recording of the musical numbers as of January 6th, 1966… so no, it’s not possible.
But The Mad Show is, as I said, coming from the magazine Mad… and in their July 1963 issue, Mad did their send-up of the book Happiness is a Warm Puppy, called Misery is a Cold Hot Dog. They labeled it as coming from their “Roasted Peanuts” department, and it featured characters from other comic strips, in addition to Charlie Brown. (The piece has been reprinted several times since.) And hey, that was written by Larry Siegel… who co-wrote the “book” for The Mad Show
So, apparently, “Misery is…” is a musical adaptation of a parody, and not (as I first suspected), a parody of a musical adaptation.