Getting Over Your Fear of Karaoke


  • Illustration by Mike Gorman

Karaoke can be a dangerous endeavor. What can you sing that won't make friends shun you? How can you go balls-out during your next performance? Each week in "Ask a Karaoke Host," RFT Music writer and professional karaoke host Allison Babka answers your burning questions about maximizing your melodious mutterings and minimizing your friends' pain. Ask her stuff by emailing or hashtagging #rftkaraoke on Twitter.

I know a guy who only sings TV theme songs at karaoke. What the hell is up with that? -- Sha-la-la-laaaaa

Please pass my Twitter handle to that dude. I looooooove TV -- especially old TV. Except for a few current shows, I pretty much watch only what's on the Antenna TV and Me TV channels. I'm living off of a steady diet of "The Brady Bunch," "Dragnet" and "All in the Family," so if someone starts singing TV theme songs, I'm obviously going to become mooney-eyed. Of course, by admitting this, I'm also diminishing my chances of ever getting laid again, so there's that.

But TV themes in a karaoke setting? That doesn't work for everyone. While I might be getting all flushed behind the rig as someone performs "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You," most of my audience is groaning or heading outside for a cigarette. I presume that your "Saved by the Bell"-singing friend feels the way I do and simply is oblivious to the crowd turning on him. Gently advise the Alan Thicke wannabe to mix a few radio singles into his act (No, the full-length version of the "Scrubs" theme does not count) and save the all-TV nights for special occasions. Like, I don't know, a date with me.

If that fails, console yourself with knowing that most TV theme songs are over in less than a minute. It's really a lot like... well... just read the next question.

Why is karaoke so scary? -- The World Is Watching

Only a karaoke virgin would ask that! Karaoke's not that bad, I swear. You eventually just pop your cherry and learn to enjoy it. Actually, karaoke can be a lot like sex.

  • You build up the experience in your mind before ever attempting the act.
  • You want to throw up if you do it with the wrong person.
  • It's over in just a few minutes.
  • You smile awkwardly afterwards as you wonder, "Is that all there is to it?"

You're only afraid now because you know that other people will be watching and sharing your new experience -- which, yeah, sounds vaguely creepy. Absolutely, karaoke can be unpolished and painful at first. But if you slut it up enough times, you'll eventually reach that big "O" moment -- the high of doing something that's meaningful to you and the realization that you want even more of this thing you're now good at. Even better: people will want you to do with with them. Score!

How safe is it to sing a country song during karaoke? -- Rock 'n' Roll Suicide

It's perfectly safe -- at certain bars, that is. At others, you're going to get dirty looks and possibly broken limbs if you attempt anything other than the status quo.

If you're a genre singer -- be it country, showtunes or, yes, TV theme songs -- I think it's especially important for you to scope out a karaoke joint's character before performing there. Sure, most bars happily welcome a mix of tunes, from "Nights in White Satin" to "The Thunder Rolls." But knowing your audience, especially in a new place, can be a lifesaver. Imagine the looks -- or worse -- you'd get if you sang "The Piano Has Been Drinking" in a place where it's not unusual for the clientele to wear spiked collars and leather hats.

Like Ferris Bueller once said, "You don't want this much heat."

As a Friday-night karaoke host at a South County bar, Allison Babka receives her share of drunken song dedications, occasionally makes people cry and even has been glorified by a singing psychic. She's considering adding "Call Me Maybe" to her personal karaoke repertoire, and she hates herself for it. Bug her with karaoke nonsense on Twitter at @ambabka, and use #rftkaraoke.