“Suicide Is (Not) Painless” – Bio

“Suicide Is Painless
Written by Johnny Mandel (music) and Mike Altman (lyrics),
Theme song for both the movie and TV series M*A*S*H

“Suicide Is (Not) Painless” – Note

Mike Altman is the son of the original film’s director, Robert Altman, and was 14 years old when he wrote the song’s lyrics.


Robert Altman had two stipulations about the song for Mandel: first, it had to be called “Suicide Is Painless”; second, it had to be the “stupidest song ever written”.

Altman tried to write the lyrics himself, but found that it was too difficult for his 45-year-old brain to write “stupid enough”.

Instead he gave the task to his 14-year-old-son, Michael, who wrote the lyrics in five minutes.


During an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in the 1980s, Robert Altman said that while he only made $70,000 for having directed the movie, his son (Mike) had earned more than $1 million for having co-written the song.

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