"Short People" is a song by Randy Newman from his 1977 album, Little Criminals. The verses and chorus are lyrically constructed as a prejudiced attack on short people. In contrast, the bridge states that "short people are just the same as you and I." Newman interprets the song to be about "prejudice" as was widely thought, but added that it was "about a lunatic." As with many of his songs such as "Rednecks", Newman wrote the song from the point of view of a biased narrator. Like Dire Straits' 1985 hit single, "Money for Nothing", which used the same lyrical technique, the song was misunderstood by many listeners who wrongly assumed that it reflected Newman's personal viewpoint.
Newman would later grow to dislike the song and its success, eventually calling it a "bad break", a "novelty record like The Chipmunks", and said it caused him to receive several threats regarding its misinterpreted message. He said, "I had no idea that there was any sensitivity, I mean, that anyone could believe that anyone was as crazy as that character. To have that kind of animus against short people, and then to sing it and put it all in song and have a philosophy on it." However, it ended up being included on almost every one of his greatest hits albums.
Although Newman had never charted a single before, and his previous album, Good Old Boys, had been his third to reach the Billboard 200, "Short People" soon gained attention as a novelty song. The song consequently became a major hit on radio peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks; it was kept from reaching No. 1 by Player's "Baby Come Back" and the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive". It became a Gold record.
The song follows a basic musical formula with bass and drums centering on Newman's catchy pop piano line in the key of A major. A small brass section and an electric guitar occasionally rise into the mix and conga drums (played by Los Angeles-based session musician Milt Holland) also feature prominently in the song.
In 1978, state of Maryland delegate Isaiah Dixon attempted to introduce legislation making it illegal to play "Short People" on the radio. He was advised by Assistant Attorney General Francis B. Burch that such a law would be a violation of the First Amendment.
The song was performed by actor James Coco on a 1978 episode of The Muppet Show. Other television shows to feature the song include Ally McBeal, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Doogie Howser, M.D., The Cleveland Show, and The Simpsons.
A MADtv sketch parodying Newman's songwriting abilities also made references to the song.
The Side Street Ramblers performed a version of this song, in reference to the height difference between their lead and bass singers (5' and 6'5" respectively).
In the film Semi-Pro, Will Ferrell sings the song on the bus. It is also featured in the 1994 feature-length adaptation of The Little Rascals.
This song is heard on a Toy Story sing-along cassette tape.
The song is mentioned in a list of Michael Scott's favorite Bruce Springsteen songs in The Office episode "Crime Aid". None of the songs mentioned were actually performed by Springsteen.
In 2009, the song was parodied by conservative political satirist Paul Shanklin as "Old People" with Shanklin doing a voice impersonation of American President Barack Obama on the health care reform debate in the United States.
Andrew Hansen, an Australian satirical comedian, also performed this song on the comedy show Good News Week. Initially in the show he disclaimed the lyrics stating that he didn't hate short people—it was Randy Newman's lyrics (a reference to a skit he earlier participated in that questioned the legitimacy of charities for sick children and caused him, and his group The Chaser, to be temporarily suspended from television). Later in the show he performed the song again with his own lyrics referring to Adolf Hitler, Centrelink and popular television personalities including the show's host Paul McDermott.