Joined: Mon Oct 11, 2010 7:54 pm Posts: 9565 Location: Scottsdale, AZ
Here you talk about comedy in music
What is the worth of music that's intended to be funny? Can we only love it on a deeper level ironically?
I remember someone trying to get me into Ween but I just didn't care for it. I found it a bit too silly and whimsical and music is srs bznss. But then I also find Animal Collective to have similar qualities and I like them just fine. I would suspect though that most AnCo fans don't really find the humor in their music to be humorous? I've known people who just couldn't get into them because they found it silly and weird (these were mostly females).
But yes, what are your thoughts or examples of funny music and why does it work or doesn't work? We feel music on an emotional/sensory level, but perhaps humor is too concrete of a trait to really attach to?
Last edited by wantabodylikeme on Wed Jun 24, 2015 2:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Joined: Mon Oct 11, 2010 7:54 pm Posts: 9565 Location: Scottsdale, AZ
I think first and foremost, the music itself just has to be solid. If the music isn't there, the intended humor in the lyrics and attitude won't click.
Here's a track that came out several years ago that I thought was great and has been a favorite of mine. It's a comedy track but it uses its familiar classic pop hook to really sell you the catchiness and spirit of its whimsical spirit.
Humor is a big part of why I like a lot of the music I like. Lyrically I tend to like humor in music that you may not appreciate until after you already know the artist well and you get their unique sense of humor... I'm pretty sure you can't appreciate Leonard Cohen's "Diamonds in the Mine" until you understand the mythos of his material and persona before that. But there are also things where the sound of the music itself is funny, but I will have to think of examples.
"Open The Door, Richard!" really kicked off (or boosted) the novelty (comedy) record as a commercial powerhouse way back in 1947. There were so many versions of this, most of them huge hits, yet the only one that really maintained the essence of the comedic aspect all the way through was by the originator, Dusty Fletcher, who was a comedian and did this routine without the music for years, even using a ladder as a prop on stage. Jack McVea, a swing saxophone player/bandleader, put music behind it and came up with the Greek chorus vocals that enabled it to be made a record and he turned it into a major hit which was then covered by almost every artist you could think of. But most of them (including Count Basie, Louis Jordan, The Three Flames, Walter Brown, Hot Lips Page, and maybe the best of the other versions by The Charioteers) only used the basic premise and set up, focusing more on the music which took away from the comedy (in fact, cutting out the entire second half of the "story"). Seventy years later those versions make almost no sense, you wouldn't have any idea what the fuss was about. Luckily Fletcher recorded it himself and did the whole routine, just as he did on stage, but with the musical accompaniment created by McVea, and that's the enduring one.
The combined popularity of all of the versions made "Open the door, Richard" the catchphrase of the decade in the late 40's, everybody used it as a joke in any situation they found themselves in and it needed no explanation. When I first heard it a few years back (luckily Fletcher's version) I really thought it was funny, and it still is to a degree, his drunken dialect, his mumbled asides, the jokes within the jokes about having to go pick up his unemployment check in person being "too much work" so he quit getting them! It's really well-done. But after hearing it every so often for a few years it doesn't make me laugh anymore, maybe just smile a little.
I think that's the problem with almost all comedy in music, the joke loses its effectiveness with each re-telling. Once you know the punchline the humor no longer can surprise you, so it becomes tough to appreciate in the same way. That's one reason why it's not done much anymore. There's very few novelty musical hits and almost none by "legitimate" artists with serious musical careers. A few (Jan & Dean, The Olympics, and obviously before them The Coasters) were still doing it with success through the mid-60's but after that the only way they'd get made were as album cuts or by pure novelty artists (Ray Stevens, Rick Dees). It made sort of a comeback with rap, especially after De La Soul used humor in between-song skits, which became a go-to device for awhile for lots of artists, even The Fugees did it. But as good as the overall albums are still, those are usually the tracks that don't wear well for the reason stated - the joke doesn't work as intended anymore once you know it.
Anyway, here's Fletcher's record, if you haven't heard it, or even heard of it yet, see what your first reaction to it is.
Joined: Sat Oct 23, 2010 3:42 pm Posts: 573 Location: Paris
A Zappa album comes to mind.
I get the impression you are thinking of a certain type of parodic humour, which isn't always as serious and sincere as humour can be. Beckett is funny but he's pretty damn serious about it, in a way. And why would humour be more "concrete a trait" than empathy or nostalgia for example? Most great singer-songwriters are funny (like most great writers), or at least, a number of their songs make me laugh. Bob Dylan's 115th Dream is a very funny song and I don't think it downgrades it at all, quite the contrary. So are Highway 61 Revisited, When I'm Sixty-Four, Piggies, Step Right Up, Marshall Mathers... Regarding the music itself being funny, that often has to do with emulating a certain style, like in those two Beatles songs, which are closer to parodies of an existing style, but that doesn't mean the lyrics of When I'm Sixty-Four are purely silly and exempt from a certain tenderness (the retro style fits in with the lyrics). Unusual sounds can also have a comic effect, like that weird wizzing noise on Highway 61 Revisited which adds the the surreal strangeness. Zappa also uses odd sounds or distorts voices to go with hs lyrics. Basically when it's well done you can't really separate the music from the humour.
Joined: Tue Oct 12, 2010 2:07 am Posts: 8929 Location: Seattle
I like it when music is funny and also good on its own terms. Once the joke gets old, will you still want to listen to the song?
I can think of example and counter-example with the same band. Flight of the Conchords' "Ladies of the World" is a good song on its own and I listen to it sometimes. I can't even remember if I ever found the lyrics funny, but regardless I don't laugh at them now, and still enjoy the song. Even the part where he's naming all the types of ladies around the world ("dominican, bolivian, presbyterian") it sounds good rhythmically and fits with the song nicely.
Then take "Rhymenocerous vs Hiphopopotamus." I really cracked up the first time I heard the lyric "They call me the hiphopopotamus, my lyrics are bottomless...[long pause]." But there's nothing musically there for me to come back to. You can't keep listening to the same joke over and over again.
Flight of the Conchords, I think, are going for humor first, music second. "Ladies of the World" being a good song is kind of an outlier. But normal music can be funny too, and I appreciate it when it is. To quote Cam'Ron, "I get boosters boostin', I get computers 'puting"
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