Friday, 10 April 2009

Top 10 Songs From TV Comedy

Music and comedy go hand in hand…

…Many of the best stand-up comedians use music in their sets, some of the funniest films of all time are centred on music or feature comedy songs and the likes of Weird Al Yankovich have made careers out of making comedy records.

In my opinion we are in a golden age of both comedy and music and thus we are also lucky enough to currently be presented with a plethora of pant-pissing fusions of the two.

When I first heard ‘Sex Farm’ in ‘This Is Spinal Tap’, I thought it would be a nigh-on impossible task to dethrone that track as King of the comedy songs, but in recent years there have been plenty of little ditties out there to give ‘The Tap’ a run for their money in the sonic snigger stakes.

So here is my list of the top ten songs to originate from TV comedy over the years, it wasn’t an easy list to compile but it certainly was entertaining…

10. George’s Answer Phone Message performed by George Costanza (from ‘Seinfeld’)

“I must be out or I’d answer the phone…”

Will ‘Seinfeld’ ever be overthrown as the greatest sitcom of all time? It seems unlikely to me. To list the greatest moments in the show’s history would take many men many hours to compile, but one of the show’s said greatest moments happens to be musically themed.

In the season 8 episode ‘The Susie’, ‘Seinfeld’s resident neurotic ball of dishonesty George is screening his phone calls to avoid the impending break-up of his relationship so he still gets the chance to show off his tall girlfriend at Yankees owner George Steinbrenner’s ball – “if she can’t find me, she can’t break up with me”.

Thankfully this gives us multiple opportunities to enjoy George’s genius answer phone message set to the tune of ‘Believe it or Not’ by Joey Scarbury the theme from cult show ‘The Greatest American Hero’.

If I wasn’t sure it’d go over the heads of everyone I know, this would totally be my answer phone message!

9. ‘In My Country There is Problem’ performed by Borat Sagdiyev (from ‘Da Ali G Show’)

“Then we have a big party…”

Taken from the HBO version of ‘Da Ali G Show’ this anti-Semitic number from Sascha Baron Cohen’s infamous Borat was causing offence long before the Borat film ever saw the light of day.

At a redneck bar in Tucson, Arizona Borat takes to the stage to sing a little country song about the problems faced by his “glorious nation of Kazakhstan”. The first verse is innocent enough, with Borat bemoaning the transport issues Kazakhstan has, but bizarrely it’s the second verse of the song which cites “the Jew” as another of Kazakhstan’s problems that gets the hillbillies in the bar raucously clapping along.

As you can imagine a song about grabbing Jews by their “horns” and throwing them down a well was greeted with plenty of controversy when the show first aired which is why ‘In My Country there is Problem’ deserves it’s spot on this list – good comedy is about pushing people’s buttons.

The irony that seems lost on those who were complaining is that Baron Cohen, who as we all know is a Jew himself, has always maintained that Borat, Bruno and even Ali G were more about exposing stereotypes than perpetuating them.

8. ‘I’m Comin’ to Get Ya’ performed by Krazee-Eyez Killa (from ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’)

“I’ll make you suck my dick then I’ll nut in your eye…”

Easily one of ‘Curb’s best episodes ‘Krazee-Eyez Killa’ features a rapper of the same name brilliantly played by little known actor Chris Williams, who, for storyline purposes is inexplicably dating Wanda Sykes on the show, and therefore comes into contact with, and subsequently befriends, Larry at a barbeque.

Keen to draw on Larry’s writing experience, Krazee-Eyez treats Larry to an impromptu rendition of his latest rhyme ‘I’m Comin’ to Get Ya’. Larry’s facial expressions as Krazee-Eyez runs his lyrics by him are priceless and Larry’s critique is nothing short of genius: “you already said fuck once”.

The post-rap discussion about the finer parts of cunnilingus are an added bonus to this brilliant scene and song, and any song that gives me the opportunity to include the word cunnilingus in this blog is more than worthy of a place on this list.

7. ‘It Ain’t Easy Bein’ White…’ performed by G.O.B. & Franklin (from ‘Arrested Development’)

“I got childrens all over town…”

Taken from the hit album ‘Franklin Comes Alive’, ‘It Ain’t Easy Being White’ is a modern twist on ‘Ebony and Ivory’ performed by a man and his ignorantly stereotypical puppet.

Arguably ‘Arrested Development’s best character, G.O.B.’s stake on this claim was upped by the season 2 arrival of Franklin Delano Bluth, a foul-mouthed, womanising, ‘street’ puppet introduced by G.O.B. into his act to try and ‘hip’ it up.

Although we have only ever been privy to a small exert from the song, G.O.B. hoped that the CD could “break down racial barriers…” As Franklin himself explained G.O.B. almost “ruined the act…” when an accident with a washing machine bleached Franklin white and caused him to speak with a British accent.

Thankfully, Franklin recovered, was re-dyed and even managed to appear as a witness at George Sr.’s trial. It may not be the longest song on the list but for it’s message of unity & hope and the fact that it is performed by the greatest puppet outside of The Muppets to ever grace our screens it more than deserves it’s spot.

6. ‘Trapped in the Closet’ performed by ‘R. Kelly’ (from ‘South Park’)

“But everyone one wants you out the closet…”

‘South Park’ masterminds Trey Parker and Matt Stone are no stranger to controversy - their supremely sweary animated show has managed to offend just about everyone at some point during it’s thirteen seasons thus far.

But it was the season 9 episode ‘Trapped in the Closet’ featuring this song of the same name that launched an unholy (excuse the pun) shit storm on the ‘South Park’ creators.

The episode which satirizes the religion of Scientology and portrays one of the religion’s favourite sons Tom Cruise in a rather negative light led to all manner of controversy, dubbed ‘Closetgate’ by some idiot.

Cruise reportedly threatened to back out of his promotional work for Paramount if the episode wasn’t pulled from the air by Viacom (the company owns both Paramount and ‘South Park’s home Comedy Central) and eventually the voice of Chef, the late Isaac Hayes, quit the show due to what he perceived as the show’s offensive depiction of Scientology, of which he was a devout follower.

Parker and Stone were quick to point out the hypocrisy of Hayes’ decision, as the late star had been quite happy to mock every other religion under the sun during his nine seasons on the show.

‘South Park’ has had some pretty amazing songs featured in it during it’s tenure, and through both the ‘South Park’ movie and ‘Team America’ Parker and Stone further proved they have a gift for musical comedy, but for ruffling the feathers of Scientology and parodying the ridiculous R. Kelly series of songs of the same name ‘Trapped in the Closet’ gets the nod as ‘South Park’s greatest comedy song of all time.

(Presumably due to Viacom’s legal battles with youtube, the best clip I can find of this song is one spliced together with footage of Cruise from ‘Interview With the Vampire’ – my apologies.)

5. ‘We Do’ (The Stonecutters’ Song) performed by The Stonecutters (from ‘The Simpsons’)

“Who makes Steven Guttenberg a star…?”

Like ‘South Park’, ‘The Simpsons’ has featured some brilliant musical numbers over the years, honourable mentions must go out to Mr. Burns’ ‘See My Vest’ and the whole town’s rendition of ‘Monorail!’ but when it came to compiling this list one song sprang immediately to mind.

Taken from the episode ‘Homer the Great’ in which Homer joins a Freemasons-esque secret society known as The Stonecutters, ‘We Do’ is an infuriatingly catchy number that fourteen years on from it’s original broadcast I am still prone to burst into a rendition of.

Performed by the whole of The Stonecutters organisation (which is led by a character voiced by guest star Patrick Stewart) during one of it’s gatherings, ‘We Do’ is a gratuitous boast-fest about everything that The Stonecutters control/influence, such as rigging every OSCAR night, holding back the electric car, controlling the British crown and of course, in the best line of the song, making a certain ‘Police Academy’ actor a star.

The song was nominated for an Emmy, but almost never even existed. It wasn’t in the original script but was suggested to be added by Matt Groening, the writing staff subsequently wrote the song throwing in as many references to things that annoyed them as they could.

Not just one of this historic show’s funniest songs, ‘We Do’ is also one of it’s most memorable, and after 436 episodes over twenty years that’s saying something.

4. ‘Boom’ performed by Flight of the Conchords (from ‘Flight of the Conchords’)

“She’s like a curry…”

Picking your favourite Flight of the Conchords song is almost as difficult as watching ‘Wild Things’ and trying to decide which one of Denise Richards’ champagne soaked breasts you’d prefer to nuzzle, as they’re equally as spectacular as each other.

“Formerly New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongoa ccapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo”. Flight of the Conchords are Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, a duo who’ve gone from Perrier success to Grammy success effortlessly.

A BBC radio show was followed by an Emmy-nominated TV series on HBO. Such is the strength of The Conchords’ music that the first season of the show was written around the existing songs they already had.

In response to that opening metaphor though; I’d have to say the left one… I mean, I’d have to say ‘Boom’.

Taken from only the second episode of the show, ‘Boom’ is Bret’s ode to sign-holder Coco, who he explains is “so flippin’ hot”.

The electro-reggae number features a 1987 Casio DG20 electric guitar which as Bret states at the start is set to “mandolin” and has the word boom in place of most of the nouns throughout the song, i.e. “...They said he had his Boom chopped off in the Boom…”

The video, clearly parodying The Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Hey Mama’, is worth watching for Jermaine’s facial expressions alone, as usual. I like to think ‘Boom’ is the sort of music the bastard lovechild of Shaggy and Gary Numan would make and is not just hilariously funny, ‘Boom’ also makes you want to get up and start “shaking your boom boom…”

3. ‘Eels’ performed by The Mighty Boosh (from ‘The Mighty Boosh’)

“Boring through your tummy, through your mind, through your anus…”

Much like with ‘Flight of the Conchords’, picking just one song to single out as ‘the best’ from ‘The Mighty Boosh’ is a difficult task.

I enjoy the more ramshackle nature of the songs from the first season (‘Electro Boy’ is a personal favourite from one of the best episodes of the show) and the stuff from the second season clearly shows that was when Julian and Noel really hit their stride (‘Love Games’ has always been a joy) but I have selected ‘Eels’ from the first episode of season 3 as the best.

Why? You may be wondering, well first of all it is a fond memory from what turned out to be a rather disappointing third season. Apart from the always brilliant double act of Saboo and Tony Harrison, the songs were the only thing to really get excited about in season 3; it almost seemed like Julian and Noel had forgot what made The Boosh so amazing in the first place.

I’m not here to criticise though, I’m here to celebrate. When people mention the songs of ‘The Mighty Boosh’ everyone thinks of the ‘crimps’ that have slowly become one of the show’s trademarks, but it’s important to note that Julian Barratt is an accomplished musician, in essence the complete antithesis of Howard Moon.

The show has featured some awesome musical numbers over the years and although the comedy may have cooled off a bit by season 3, the music definitely hadn’t. The music of season 3 is more polished and accomplished than in seasons past and if the long-rumoured Boosh CD does ever get released, many of the stand-out tracks will be from this most recent season. ‘Future Sailors’ is a gloriously camp 80’s electro number and Vince’s punk anthem ‘I Did a Shit on Your Mum’ is perhaps one of the simplest yet most genius songs of all time – “and she rather liked it”.

‘Eels’ though is something else entirely, a new-rave commentary on how rubbish new-rave actually is masquerading as a ditty about jellied eels. The fact that ‘Eels’ is performed by one of my favourite Boosh creations The Hitcher only adds to it’s appeal.

Looking towards the upper echelons of this list you’ll see a common theme in the fact that these songs, in my humble opinion, are all strong enough to stand alone as singles, which is why ‘Eels’ has been given the nod over some perhaps more fondly remembered Boosh songs – this is better than 90% of the new rave gash out there and has a worthy place in between all the Huey Lewis & The News and Billy Ocean on my iPod.

2. ‘Werewolf Bar Mitzvah’ performed by Tracy Jordan (from ‘30 Rock’)

“Spooky, scary…”

Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a near obsessive love of ‘30 Rock’ and in particular Mr. Tracy Jordan, Tracy Morgan’s cartoonish exaggeration of his own personality is the source of most of the show’s best lines. Tracy’s finest moment thus far though has undoubtedly been his “novelty party record” ‘Werewolf Bar Mitzvah’.

It’s testament to ‘30 Rock’s overall quality that this full length comedy masterpiece was featured for no more than about ten seconds on screen. The track was eventually made available for eager fans to download from NBC’s ‘30 Rock’ homepage however, hence, why the youtube clip featuring the entire song is a homemade one.

‘Werewolf Bar Mitzvah’ is a ‘Thriller’ inspired number by Jordan about his Bar Mitzvah (he isn’t Jewish) being interrupted by Werewolves, “…tomorrow my son you will be a man, but tonight it’s time to join the wolfing clan…” for which he received a gold disc.

Although Tracy comments mid-song that “this whole premise is sweaty” and his producer exclaims that ‘Werewolf Bar Mitzvah’ is no ‘Dick in a Box’, this song should definitely become a part of everyone’s Halloween playlists, which seemingly always include, understandably ‘Monster Mash’ and somewhat inexplicably The Backstreet Boys’ ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’ – I know the video is monster themed, but what’s Halloween-y about the song!?

And if anyone thinks the song’s too stupid to become a Halloween hit: have you heard Warren Zevon’s ‘Werewolves of London’ which features the lyric “I saw a Werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand” and more often that not also features on the aforementioned Halloween playlists? (‘Werewolves of London is also a truly awesome song I might add.)

I long thought that ‘30 Rock’ wouldn’t top Tracy’s movie back catalogue (‘Who Dat Ninja’, ‘Fat Bitch’, ‘Honky Grandma be Trippin’) in terms of the pop culture spoofing throw-away gags, but with ‘Werewolf Bar Mitzvah’ they set themselves a new benchmark, which if they do ever surpass should lead to something close to comedy perfection for the audience.

1. ‘Jizz In My Pants’ performed by The Lonely Island (from ‘Saturday Night Live’)

“When Bruce Willis was dead at the end of ‘Sixth Sense’…”

Not just the new Kings of musical comedy but comedy in general, The Lonely Island consists of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer.

Friends since high school, the trio joined American institution ‘Saturday Night Live’ in 2005, Samberg as a cast member and Taccone & Schaffer as writers. Their brand of musical parody and videos led to the now infamous ‘SNL Digital Shorts’ which have included several of the songs that feature on The Lonely Island’s debut album ‘Incredibad’.

It was a tough choice picking the best of The Lonely Island’s work, ‘Dick in a Box’ is obviously the most famous and the one that got the group the attention they now rightfully receive and the gloriously profane rap video spoof ‘I’m on a Boat’ is nothing short of certified comedy genius but it’s ‘Jizz In My Pants’ that stands out as the trio’s best work to date.

The song is performed in a sort of Pet Shop Boys style (intentional or not, Taccone’s Neil Tenant is dead on) that said, Neil Tenant wishes he could write a song this great.

As a stand alone song, ‘Jizz In My Pants’ could be the greatest comedy song of all time - watched with the video, it is the greatest. The song features Samberg and Taccone singing about their rather unfortunate habit of prematurely ejaculating at the slightest stimuli – “I jizz right in my pants every time your next to me, and when we’re holding hands it’s like having sex to me.”

The video features Molly Sims and Jamie-Lynn Sigler as the objects of the guys’ affections and has a cameo from Justin Timberlake. As with most of the other Lonely Island music parodies ‘Jizz In My Pants’ has been an internet sensation and currently has over 38 million hits on youtube.

Unbelievably funny lyrics, great satire and some of the funniest ‘cum-faces’ I’ve ever seen, ‘Jizz In My Pants’ is as close to perfect as comedy can get and is thoroughly deserving of it’s spot at the summit of this illustrious list.

If you haven’t got The Lonely Island’s album already, I urge you to go out and get it, some of it is a little hit and miss but the big songs are all present and more than make up for the odd weak moment, plus you get a DVD featuring the ‘Jizz In My Pants’ video which is worth the price of the album alone.

What do you think of the list? Are there any glaring omissions? Please comment and let me know…

Other Random Thoughts This Week:

- The dust has settled on another epic Grand National and I’d just like to apologise if anyone actually followed my tips.

Himalayan Trail was down at the first fence – so I don’t think Nostradamus has anything to worry about, and Black Apalachi unseated on the second circuit after running them all ragged up to that point.

My prediction was quite accurate though with him – I said if he could stay on his feet he would win and I dare anyone to tell me any different. It’s just a shame he fell then!

I can’t believe that people have actually phoned up and complained about Claire Balding’s cheeky comment about Liam Treadwell’s teeth after the race though.

The guy had just won the Grand National and must’ve been on a high like no other, Mick Fitzgerald famously said it was better than sex (given how ugly he is though, how much sex he’s actually had is debatable) so I’m pretty sure Treadwell didn’t give a second thought to a throwaway comment from an ignorant, square-jawed lesbian.

The only person who had any right to be upset is Treadwell himself, so why anyone would feel the need to complain on his behalf is beyond me.

- Eminem’s reported first single off his long-anticipated ‘Relapse’ album appeared online this week and most of the comments I’ve read on ‘We Made You’, which I think is actually a decent record, are spewing venomous hate on Marshall Mathers III.

Have these people not followed his career at all, this is standard Eminem formula; the first single off every one of his major label releases has been a cheeky pop culture referencing commentary on the World of celebrity with a funny video, usually featuring Dr. Dre in a comedy outfit.

These first singles are never his best work, but just wait until the album drops before you all start writing him off as a has been.

- For those of you who saw my recent list of the ten TV shows that were cancelled too soon - someone out there may have been listening.

As Armando Iannucci has confirmed this week that the magnificent ‘The Thick Of It’ will indeed be returning late this year. I did state that the show hadn’t technically been cancelled, but it did seem unlikely that we would ever get to peak inside the Whitehall walls again.

But rejoice! Because the greatest British comedy I’ve ever seen is heading back to light up our screens this winter and I for one cannot wait.


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