The Kodak Handle. Photo courtesy of the Virtual Camera Museum at

Polaroid's OneStep. Photo © by the author; all rights reserved.

We close out our Tom Lehrer Birthday Week extravaganza today with one more song. This one is from the 1977 Summer Sales Meeting, and requires a little background explanation. The OneStep was, as you probably remember, Polaroid’s little plastic-bodied camera, hugely popular and decorated with a rainbow stripe. The Handle was its competitor from Eastman Kodak, a bulkier and uglier camera that got its name from its built-in carrying loop. (It ejected each photo  via a hand crank.) At the time, Kodak and Polaroid were locked in a deathmatch over instant-photography supremacy, both in the market and the courts; Polaroid prevailed, in 1990, when it was awarded a billion dollars’ damages for patent infringement. Polaroid’s camera really was better, too.

Once again, special thanks to Tom Lehrer for raiding his storage closet and allowing us to rediscover these songs.


words by Tom Lehrer
tune: “Mister Gallagher and Mister Shean” (1922)
by Ed Gallagher and Al Shean

(Handle)     Oh, Mister OneStep
(OneStep)  Yes, Mister Handle
(H)    Now I hear that you’re the simplest camera made.
(O)        OneStep’s the name!
(H)     I admit you  may be lighter,
But my  pictures come out brighter.
(O)    Mine are just as bright, and what’s more they don’t fade.
(H)        Oh, you heard about that.
(O)    And, Mister Handle
(H)    Yes, Mister Onestep
(O)    You are really not that simple, I’m afraid.
You are very pretty —
(H)    Thank you!
(O)     But your owner has to crank you.
(H)    You are simpler, Mister Onestep?
(O)    Automatic, Mister Handle!

(H)    Oh, Mister OneStep
(O)    Yes, Mister Handle
(H)    Now the Kodak name is known throughout the land.
(O)        Land!  He said Land!
(H)    And I’m sure not hard to master.
(O)    But I  can take my pictures faster,
And I fit right in the palm of someone’s hand.
(H)        Small isn’t everything!
(O)    And, Mister Handle,
(H)    Yes, Mister OneStep
(O)    Though you represent a very famous brand,
Polaroid just grows and grows.
(H)    Kodak’s bigger, Heaven knows,
They’re a giant, Mister OneStep.
(O)    Like Goliath, Mister Handle?
(H)        Touché, David, touché!


(O)    [coyly]  Oh, Mister Handle
(H)    Yes, Mister OneStep
(O)    You know, you really ought to lose a little weight.
(H)        Nobody’s perfect!
And no matter what you claim,
We both cost about the same.
(O)    But with me they get more features that are great.
(H)        Picky, picky!
(O)    So, Mister Handle
(H)    Yes, Mister OneStep
(O)    Now it’s time to put an end to this debate.
With accessories galore
I can give the buyers more.
(H)    You know, your ego is a scandal!
(O)    Now then, don’t fly off the handle!
(H)    I surrender, Mister Onestep.
After all is said and done, step
Right up now and take a bow.
You are the simplest —
(O)    I’m the simplest!
(Together)    Camera ever made!

[As they walk off:]

(O)  Want me to take your picture?
(H)  You mean you just push that button and that’s it?
(O)  That’s right!
(H)  Why didn’t I think of that?

Tagged with:

Leave a Reply

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.
Website Apps