Music and comedy go together like… two things that go together really well. Okay, we’re not comics. Suffice it to say though, both musical and comedy history is filled with talented artists that were able to carefully tow the line between the two.
It’s no small feat – to create music that people actually want entering their ear canals and filling it with jokes and quips that will actually make people laugh and not just cringe at the daggyness of what they’re experiencing.
One of the best ever to do it are the Doug Anthony Allstars, who are bringing their ‘Near Death Experience’ show to Melbourne’s Yarraville Laugh this Saturday. To celebrate their return, we’ve had a look at some of the best comedy bands in history.
Flight Of The Conchords
If we had to steal one thing from New Zealand, it would be Flight of the Conchords. No offence Peter Jackson, but Jemaine and Bret have just given us so much entertainment over the years and what have you really done to keep us engaged for hours on end?
Although they’re now best known for their eponymous HBO comedy series – not to mention inducting Crowded House into the ARIA Hall of Fame – Flight of the Conchords started out as a buzz band on the comedy festival circuit, billing themselves as New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo.
Garfunkel & Oates
This Los Angeles-based comedy-folk duo is comprised of actresses Riki Lindhome (Garfunkel) and Kate Micucci (Oates) and it only takes one look at the name to help you realise the pair’s knack for sly and tongue-in-cheek humour (they’re named after two oft-maligned members of famous duos).
The two met at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles, where they were introduced by comedian Doug Benson. The two soon began cooking up hilarious songs that take a sardonic look at modern life. Choice song titles include ‘Pregnant Women are Smug’ and ‘This Party Just Took a Turn for the Douche’, as well as the very risque number you’ll find below.
The Doug Anthony Allstars
The Doug Anthony Allstars are something of an Australian institution. Veterans of the Australian comedy and musical scenes, the trio of Paul McDermott and Tim Ferguson on main vocals and Richard Fidler on guitar and backing vocals formed all the way back in 1984.
With the members now all Australian comedy legends in their own respective rights, The Doug Anthony Allstars are known for their aggressive and provocative style of comedy, with much of their humour coming from audience participation and their skewering of topical and controversial issues – and years later, they’ve lost none of their edge.
The thing about Spinal Tap is that while we adore the movie and love the people involved, the band’s music really wasn’t that great. Like, we know it’s meant to be bad, but after you’ve gotten over the schtick of owning Break Like the Wind on vinyl, you probably won’t listen to the songs again.
Not so with Dethklok, because the thing is that the band’s songs are not only humorous and remind you of all the great times you had watching the classic Adult Swim show, the band that records as Dethklok is genuinely talented and make some awesome death metal tunes.
When one thinks of comedy bands, two names usually spring to mind instantly, and one of them is invariably Tenacious D. Comprised of Hollywood mega-star Jack Black and his partner in crime Kyle Gas, Tenacious D are superstars of the musical comedy scene.
Best known for the 2002 chart smash ‘Tribute’, the single encapsulates the band’s style of comedy, which coaxes laughs through Black’s totally over the top nature and love of rock and roll, Gas’ laconic, laid back style, and their brilliantly vulgar punchlines.
Speaking of genuinely talented metal bands that are also freaking hilarious, GWAR deserve a well-wearned place in the pantheons of musical comedy and metal music. Led by the inimitable Oderus Urungus (played by the late Dave Brockie), a GWAR show is something fans remembered for the rest of their days.
GWAR’s humour was everything that appealed to fans of puerile and absurdist, yet often very witty, comedy, as well as fans of heavy metal. For all intents and purposes, GWAR was the heavy metal aesthetic come to life and you should never miss an opportunity to see them on stage.
Remember how we said there’s two bands people usually think of when asked to come up with some musical comedy acts? Yeah, well these guys are number one. In fact, the film which brought Nigel, David, and Derek to life, This Is Spinal Tap, is beloved by rock musicians to this day.
Spinal Tap are filmmaker Christopher Guest and actors Michael McKean and Harry Shearer (best known as Mr. Burns on The Simpsons), but they are so much more. Far from a mere parody band in a film, Spinal Tap have not only toured in-character, but they remain to this day a pop culture staple.
Axis Of Awesome
We should all be proud that Australia is a veritable hub of great musical comedy. One of our greatest exports is Axis of Awesome, who pen shrewd and witty songs about a range of subjects, though they’re perhaps best known for their ‘4 Chord Song’ (check it out and be awestruck by the effort).
Best of all, the Sydney-based trio are incredibly prolific – they’ve released six albums since 2008, which is actually a better turnaround than most of the artists that were featured in their ‘4 Chord Song’.
The Lonely Island
If there’s a face to musical comedy in the age of social media, it would look exactly like the three members of The Lonely Island, presumably smushed together through the use of some disturbing Fly-like portal device.
The three Saturday Night Live alumni started as mates with a camera just making funny videos, but soon evolved into one of the most successful musical comedy troupes ever, with some of their song titles even entering everyday speech.
This Comedy Gala staple of a group are comprised of the legendary Scod, Gatesy, and Yon. The band’s comedic style is far more difficult to articulate than the band’s music style, which is comprised of Scod on guitar and lead vocals, with Gatesy and Yon on backup vocals and often serving as the fuel-injection behind this particular comedy engine.
Tripod’s ability to play music in a diverse range of styles is as remarkable as their ability to glean laughs from just about everything from war and politics, to relationships and Eurovision.
The Kransky Sisters
It’s not just the boys who rule when it comes to Australian musical comedy, the girls are their very own axis of awesome. None are more awesome than The Kransky Sisters. This trio is comprised of Annie Lee (Mourne) and Christine Johnston (Eve), in collaboration with Michele Watt (Arva) and Carolyn Johns (Dawn).
The three tell off-beat and macabre stories, accompanying each with strange but oddly relevant covers of popular songs, which they perform with their own special blend of tuba, guitar, musical saw, and a ’60s reed keyboard.
Did you know that if your dad doesn’t have a beard, you’ve got two mums? How about that it only takes a fortnight to grow a decent beard? Did you know that beards don’t kill people, people with beards kill people? Or that you should consider having sex with a bearded man? Or why having a beard is better than having a woman?
Well, The Beards are here to give you one hell of an education. Australia’s very own public beard educators have been helping the public understand the importance of facial hair for years now, even taking their important message (that beards are cool) around the world.
The Doug Anthony All Stars bring their ‘Near Death Experience’ show to Yarraville Laughs comedy club this Saturday for a special one-off gig – tickets are on sale now.