The list of one-hit wonders in music contains artists with many popular songs. Lou Bega got audiences shaking with “Mambo No. 5” and Donna Lewis dethroned Celine Dion from the top of the charts with “I Love You Always Forever” before fading into obscurity. Perhaps second only to Vanilla Ice in the world of one-hit wonders, however, is Tiny Tim. The eccentric man with the signature falsetto is immortalized in his nasally pitched hit “Tip Toe Through the Tulips.” Tiny Tim: King for a Day profiles the late artist to celebrate his uniqueness and eccentricity. The doc is a quirky study in the ups and downs of celebrity.
Director Johan Von Sydow chronicles a cradle to grave narrative for Tiny Tim. Using a collage of archival footage, still photos, funky animation, and spot-on narration by Weird Al Yankovic, the film illustrates how Tiny Tim proved an unlikely celebrity and a precursor to contemporary reality show stars who gained popularity by dancing to the beat of a different drum. Late night talk shows comprise the bulk of material in the film, as King for a Day inadvertently reminds audiences that Tiny Tim pioneered the trend of being famous for the sake of being famous. Tiny Tim, somehow, manages to seem like a precursor to both Susan Boyle and Kim Kardashian.
These talk show stints highlight Tiny Tim’s funnybone, which was arguably much stronger than his singing voice. His appearances with Johnny Carson and company show a great sense of comedic timing and wit, but also a desperation to feed on the spotlight. This aspect is most apparent in his on-air marriage to Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show, which drew 40 million viewers. The marriage lasted three years, and Tiny Tim’s candid comments about the fling are among the film’s highlights.
King for a Day charts Tiny Tim’s downward trajectory with much consideration for the reasons why some stars endure over others. It suggests that novelty might be good for merely fifteen minutes of fame, but standing out from the crowd has long-term benefits for fellow eccentrics. Admittedly, this study of Tiny Tim hinges largely on one’s ability to endure “Tip Toe Through the Tulips” on repeat. It’s a torturous exercise depending on one’s taste and mood. I personally find the song intolerable and couldn’t wait for the film to be over. By the end of the film, however, the song’s significance to others found renewed clarity.
Tiny Tim: King for a Day debuts in virtual release via Yuk Yuk’s on April 23.