It was several years ago that I was introduced to John Daker. We were over at another couple’s house, and they pulled out a VHS tape, sitting us down to watch a recital originally aired on WTVP, a public access TV station in Peoria, IL (circa 1990-1991).

At the piano was Reva Cooper Unsicker (1915-1995). She attended the First United Methodist Church of Peoria, and for over half a century she had been teaching her fellow congregants piano, organ, and voice. Twice a year their recitals were shown on the cable access channel.

The humor in the performances is found in the humor of life itself. I think it’s possible to avoid mocking people and at the same time to enjoy the foibles of everyday folks.

John Daker is the highlight of the recital.

So earnest.

So forgetful of the lyrics.

And such perseverance until the bitter end.

At some point John Daker went viral, with his solo performance even appearing on VH1.

You can watch him sing below. It’s a strange combination of song choice: “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” and “That’s Amore.” The video starts with the previous performer, then a brief introduction by Reva Cooper Unsicker. It all starts to go south around the 1:35 mark. Listen for the “whoop.”

In my opinion, it gets funnier with more than one viewing. After the original, I’ve included a cartoon that someone put together (including subtitles!).

Enjoy:

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32 thoughts on “My Name Is John Daker”

  1. Wow! What can I say? That was . . . sumpin’. . . I don’t know exactly what it was but it was sumpin’! Thank you. I’m feeling much better about myself now.

  2. Denny Burk says:

    Justin,I started showing this video to my hermeneutics classes years ago, and I had quite forgotten that you were the source. Thanks for the reminder and the funny cartoon. I laughed out loud again.

    Tickey-tey,
    Denny Burk

    1. James says:

      Dr. Burk,
      I really enjoyed your sermon in chapel on Tuesday. I would like to know why you play this video in your hermeneutics class. Is it just for humor (because that is totally valid with this video!) or something else?

      James

  3. Loren Eaton says:

    Oh, poor John. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    1. Todd Hook says:

      I laughed and cried!

  4. sean says:

    It’s cool John. I don’t think anyone noticed. wink wink

  5. Brett Sweet says:

    And these are the type of people that Christ came to redeem…not only are we sinful, but we tend to be seemingly poor investments. I certainly would perform as poorly or worse and it’s a good reminder of knowing that God has given different people different gifts. But regardless, I laughed very hard- especially reading the subtitles.

  6. Marv says:

    As Lisa Douglas would say, “Ruth is stranger than friction.”

  7. George Wisley says:

    I about wet myself!! Thanks for the great laugh!

  8. David says:

    I liked the singing. And the cartoon was truly funny. – David

  9. David says:

    PS: Not really what I expected in a religious-sort of blog, but I am enjoying this blog! – David (again)

  10. Todd says:

    Justin,

    (I am prepared to be flamed.) I read your blog everyday. I rarely have any issues at all with what you have to say, but this post was very offensive to me. You wrote “the humor in the performance is found in the humor of life itself” and “I think it’s possible to avoid mocking people and at the same time to enjoy the foibles of everyday folks”. I completely disagree. When we laugh at this man, we are mocking him, his awkwardness, his forgetfulness, and his funny faces. But he is a child of God. A brother in Christ. And we are not laughing with him, but at him. Perhaps I’m overly sensitive. I used to watch South Park and listen to Howard Stern before God saved me, and I continued to watch Family Guy as a Christian, until God really convicted my heart. But what God really used to change my heart on this kind of humor was putting me in a high school special education classroom. Seeing how wonderful these children are, how unique and special God made them, and seeing them mocked by their peers on a daily basis has really softened my heart. I urge you to remove this post. Once again, we’re not laughing at The Office or 30 Rock or “fake or staged awkwardness”…we’re laughing at an actual man. We’re laughing at a brother in Christ’s awkwardness. He was probably terrified and mortified…and we are all laughing AT him. Perhaps I’m overreacting…but I don’t believe this post belongs on a Christian blog. Let’s not mock this brother together.

    1. Lighten-up,Todd. We all do stuff that earns us a few laughs.

    2. John says:

      “Perhaps I’m overly sensitive.”

      You are.

      “Perhaps I’m overreacting”

      Yep.

      But if it’s any consolation, I think comparing this man to the students in your special education class was a real nice touch. Not offensive at all.

    3. Todd,

      I understand that perspective. I’ve definitely heard it before, in relation to a certain wildly successful program on the Fox network that lets amateurs compete against one another for a big singing recording contract.

      I think what this clip illustrates is what C.S.Lewis posited about the futility of sincere confidence in a lie. The real culprit here is the dear Ms. Unsicker. She is, purportedly, a teacher of singing. She puts on a concert which shows the fruits of her work. Dear Mr. Daker is but one example. The humor is not found in his lack of ability. The humor is in Ms. Unsicker’s fraud in perpetrating herself as a vocal coach.

      Mr. Daker’s identity is not defined by his ability to sing. If it was, then perhaps we’d have a problem. As it isn’t, we’re free to express….concern… over his abilities, as developed by Ms. Unsicker.

      (Full disclosure – I sing with my church’s worship team. I can sing better than John Daker. That has precisely zero to do with how Jesus views me, or Mr. Daker.)

  11. I can’t stop watching. Somebody help! The subtitles are killing me.

  12. Dave says:

    As a voice major in college, I know it’s tough to remember words sometimes. Thanks for the laugh, Justin. I too want to know why this would be shown in a hermaneutics class, though…

  13. Todd says:

    Ken: I can’t “lighten up”. I don’t think we should be laughing AT this man.

    John: That was unhelpful and unloving. I didn’t compare Mr. Daker to special education children. I said that’s one of the ways God opened my heart to see this kind of mockery as cruel.

    Rachel: So because Mr. Daker’s identity is in Christ, not in his talents, we’re free to mock him? “We’re free to express…concern…over his abilities.” We’re not expressing concern. We’re mocking the man.

    1. John says:

      No, no, wait, let me guess, you’re “offended” by my comment? And…it somehow reminds you of the time you met an Islamic Jihadist (totally unrelated of course) who said something mean while throwing stuff at small children?

      No need replying to this comment, I’m sure you’re a busy man. There are a lot of nasty, nasty people out there that need to be yelled at.

      1. henrybish says:

        John, give Todd a break. He has a fair point.

        Could we imagine Jesus laughing at John Daker with us?

  14. ruth says:

    oh, my! I haven’t laughed THAT hard in months! thank you for posting it and I’m going back to see it again, now that my eyes are dry.
    I love your blog; begin each day reading it.

  15. Forget the singing itself, has anyone noticed the inherent hilarity in the fact that the man is singing a medley of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” and “That’s Amore?” I for one have always thought of those and said to myself, Man, these two songs would go great together!

  16. Debbie says:

    I agree with Todd. Not funny to me. Remember the outrage when American Idol first started. What? A show mocking people?!! Now, all is well. The change in our culture is insidious and we as Christians have gone down the path. My mother would have scolded me for making fun of people as a young person. How far we have come!

  17. John says:

    Great! It reminds me of the story a pastor friend told me just two days ago about a man who was singing for the worship service who got his words twisted around and sang “I fell on my face with my knees to the rising sun”!

  18. ben says:

    This helps explain why my present church and former church didn’t use either a choir or soloists in the music ministry.

    I think the more we all come to expect “music excellence” at all times, the less inclined the church will be to accept anything “less” in corporate services – both for good and ill. (as a side note, I think the move away from choirs and solos is generally beneficial because these can minimize corporate participation – congregational singing – if relied on too heavily.)

    and I would like to think that if Mr. Daker and I could sit down and watch this together, we could share a laugh. I certainly think it’s possible to laugh at the performance without mocking him as a person.

    (PS – I realize Mr Daker wasn’t singing in a church service.)

  19. Chris says:

    Crazy thing about this video is that it has been an underground gem for a long time now….I first had the pleasure of seeing it around 94 or 95 when I was in college…..one of my best friends brother-in-law gave us a VHS tape of the entire “Talent” show…..story went that a friend of his couldn’t sleep one night and was watching Public television when this came on….he quickly put a tape in to catch the show…..I have no idea if that is true or not…but that is my story.

    I am not mocking John Daker…….I love John Daker…….John Daker is my friend…..he has brought so much joy to my life and to the lives of my close friends……….That’s Amore!!

  20. David says:

    If anyone is actually “concerned,” then here’s a suggestion for constructive/restorative action:

    pool some money,
    locate Mr. Daker, and
    send him a free copy of the ESV Study Bible.

    :)

    1. Dave says:

      My name is Dave and I approve of David’s message. :-) The large print ESV was just released on the 26th of Feb…

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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