"It always makes me smile when people assume I’m imitating Mick Jagger and the fellow who sang for Led Zeppelin,” said David Lee Roth in the Season 2 debut of his YouTube series "The Roth Show."
Roth's smile isn't a flattered one, however. He's laughing at what's a very off-base assumption. "When I was jumping off the drum riser and touching my toes [in Van Halen], I was imitating [1930s African American acrobatic and soft-shoe dancers] the Berry Brothers launching themselves over an invariable number of balcony railings and stairwells."
That's just one of many interesting facts in his 44-minute episode, "The New York City Way," in which Roth chronicles his life as a child growing up in New York and the inspiration he gained from Broadway musicals, underground radio, the Rat Pack, mainstream media, and black music and culture.
Along the way, he reveals some more precious (and wild) VH-related nuggets, like how Mary Martin's flights of fancy in "Peter Pan" gave him the idea to suspend Eddie Van Halen upside-down in the video for "Panama," and how the "Damn Yankees" song "You Gotta Have Heart" directly influenced Roth's unwavering commitment to Van Halen.
The consummately verbose, ebullient entertainer fills "The New York City Way" with an abundance of footage from movies, theatrical presentations, dizzying visual collages, music videos, and clips of him entertaining the crowd in an imaginary play. The story opens with a show-tune version of "Jump" and features a sharp-dressed Roth shimmying and dancing to a story in his head that he reveals over the course of the episode.
During the narrative, which he reveals from a seated position in his home, he explains the story will reach a dramatic peak when three Elvis movie pictures, hanging in his childhood bedroom, start talking to him in a black voice "much like Laurence Fishburne in 'Pee Wee's Playhouse.'"
These characters will act as "three wise men" who guide him through the rest of the play, representing "a variety of neighborhoods in a variety of costumes, and all the time being the voice of my conscience."
One of the most entertaining sections of the story features Roth imitating '60s-era AM radio DJs and their nonsensical, pseudo-intellectual patter: "Why does 'brilliant' have a sell-by date, while 'dumb-ass' rolls on and on and on? If we did not know that love exists, would we still persist in chasing it? The only thing we know for certain is, hey, you never know!"
Early on in the story, Roth reveals that his character in his play will inexplicably turn into something entirely different. "You might think, 'Ah, this is the ultimate conclusion to a career,'" he says. "In fact, you begin to realize that’s not reality. The person you're looking at is the devil. You're in Hell."
Still managing to follow all this? If you're feeling a bit confused, remember, this is David Lee Roth we’re talking about here.
Roth launched ‘The Roth Show” October 15, 2012. It featured 16 episodes, which ran through May 30, 2013 on YouTube. We can only speculate whether he'll continue on to act two of "The New York City Way" or jump into an entirely new topic.