Saturday, 9 February 2013

Should I be laughing?

I've had this stuck in my head all week. (As the title should tell you, it's probably Not Safe For Work.)

It made me think; musical comedy is a tricky area, as far as I can tell. I've always had an ear for it, which is not really something to boast about, but it kind of goes back as far as this:


Which probably dates me horribly. Then there's the whole Weird Al Yankovic thing, which kind of passed me by. But – and hey, this is a good reason to do this anyway – it's time to make Somik cringe by bringing up two songs – one that's not comedy, but is funny for the wrong reasons and the other that's supposed to be funny but, well, your mileage may vary.


Ultimately, this kind of music has a very short half-life for me – and, hopefully, for the world at large – but I find it interesting that there always has been and always will be this intersection between types of expression, because if you can sing it, it's probably going to be funnier than if you just made a stand-up routine out of it. 

That's a completely baseless, unfounded assumption, but in my experience – maybe not the most extensive, but fairly broad and very lateral – it tends to be the case. For a good example, there's Kinky Friedman.


I can't imagine this song as a stand-up routine, or comedy of any sort, really, without the music behind it. It just wouldn't work, somehow. Granted, it's thirty-nine year old comedy, but -

- Actually, it's worth noting that a lot of the time with Kinky Friedman I can't actually tell whether he's being funny or not. Take Ride 'Em Jewboy, for instance, which, as the ever-reliable Wikipedia will back me up on, is 'an extended tribute to the victims of the Holocaust'. It's also only – as far as I'm aware and up-to-date – the only country music song to address the issue. 

It's also on the same album as We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To You, Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In The Bed, and Ballad of Charles Whitman. (The second of these songs earned him the “Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year” award in 1973 from the National Organisation for Women. 

Then he went on to write a lot of detective fiction. (Nearly all of which, oddly, I read as a teenager.) 

Then he went on to run for election as the Governor of Texas. 

I'm skipping over large parts of his biography here, but the crux of this presentation is that he's a complicated individual, no matter how much he may appear not to be. 

We're getting a bit off-topic here, though. My point is that musical comedy acts tend to burn bright then burn out fairly quickly because they date fairly quickly. Ali G is – to me – more cringe-inducing than funny these days if I try to watch any of his stuff (although it could be argued that he was always pretty cringe-inducing, as a source of comedy). Garfunkel and Oates – kawaii! - have been going for a while now, and long may they continue to do so, but eventually – I would think – they have to suffer the same inevitable fate of comedy musicians everywhere and everywhen. 

If there's something to take away from this, I would say that – as someone who's seen a lot of these groups come and go (and Tribute aside, I rather wish Tenacious D had gone a little quicker – much like Goldie Lookin' Chain maybe should have stopped after Greatest Hits) – like creams designed for skin complaints, enjoy them while they're topical.

- James


  1. Where do you stand on musical comedy acts (as opposed to funny music acts) such as Bill Bailey, Tim Minchin and Flight Of The Conchords?

    1. Bill Bailey, I love. (Especially the musical elements of Part Troll. Or just all of Part Troll, really.)

      Tim Minchin and Flight of the Conchords, sadly, have passed me by recently.

      There is, of course, the arguments in favour of Comedian Musician vs. Musical Comedy.

      By the way, I'm saddened - slightly - that I forgot to mention This Lonely Island or The Wet Spots.

      - James