So far, in my column, I’ve spoken about: how music can make and enhance connections between people; how it can shape you as a person; and how it can empower political movements.
But one thing I haven’t yet touched on is how it can make you laugh.
One of the main ways I experience music’s connectivity is through comedy music – through laughing with others, or even shared laughter between just you and the artist. It comes back to the idea I explored in my first column, about how music is by people, for people. I love the thought that these musicians are writing their music not only to sound good, but with the direct intention of bringing a smile or laugh to someone’s face and often seeing how far they can take it. Comedy music relies on other people’s reactions. Music can be made to be funny in many different ways, and it is also important to consider the genuine talent of creating a song and making people laugh with it.
PLAYLIST: Music Makes The People: Wit and Whimsy
The playlist contains a few different types of comedy music, different artists and styles, with a song of the week, and lots of other special mentions; give it a listen as you read. Not every song in the playlist is mentioned here so it’s worth listening to get the full experience (and hopefully have a chuckle).
Song of the Week: ‘Pigs… (In There)’ by Robert Wyatt
‘Pigs…(In There)’ brings a level of whimsy to what would normally be considered a very mundane experience. It shifts our perspective from a concept we are used to, pigpens, reconsidering it as something novel and almost fantastical – we start to think ‘oh yeah it is kind of weird that they keep pigs in there’. His detailed description of seeing a pigpen for the first time builds suspense that is shattered by the farmer’s simple response: “that’s where they keep pigs”. Wyatt also describes thinking about a pigpen from the inside, considering what it must be like from the pigs’ perspective, a niche and uncommon thought. However, I think comedy music relates to more than just the joke being made in the song; it can become a bigger moment. I love to be silly and whimsical and I think songs such as this one help anyone to lean into that whimsy; I feel that this song represents not just music taste but sense of humour. To expand upon this, early on in university I played this song to a couple of (brand-new) friends, and their original response was utter confusion – their first insight into my ridiculous sense of humour, but they found it funny, and now, over a year later, we still laugh about it and sometimes even take a moment to listen to ‘Pigs’.
‘My Dick’ by Mickey Avalon
My sister introduced me to this song over the summer and I think it is far-fetched, explicit and outlandish in the best way possible. Its ridiculousness, catchy beat, and pure comedy make me love it, and the line “we’ve got dicks like Jesus” makes it a recipe for laughter. The lyrics aren’t just crude, they are hilarious to imagine and I particularly love how a lot of them don’t make sense — see “My dick size of a pumpkin/ Your dick look like Macauley Culkin”. I love that Avalon completely pushes the boundaries of abstractness, seeing how far he can take it and how ridiculous he can make it. We listened to it in the car, driving home from a festival we all went to together, windows down and lyrics about dicks flying out of them. Now whenever I listen to it, I think of my family and the summer and the shared sense of humour and appreciation for ‘the weird’ we have in common.
Similarly to Robert Wyatt, Shrigley has a flat way of talking in his two songs I’ve included: ‘Don’ts’ and ‘What I Ate’. Shrigley harnesses the mundane at times and at others flips it on its head, both songs combining almost-boring information with some that is extremely weird. Shrigley uses a comedic technique often known as the ‘rule of three’, relaying some normal pieces of information alongside some unexpected. For example, in ‘What I Ate’, Shrigley describes a normal weekly routine, getting up at 8am most days and having three square meals, but the combination of bizarre ingredients with extremely normal ones makes it incredibly funny to me. He opens the song with “On Monday morning, I got up at 8am. For my breakfast, I had 500 hard boiled eggs and a cup of tea.”
Tim Minchin is an extremely talented musician and comedian. He wrote the songs in the theatre production Matilda the Musical, recently adapted into the 2022 film Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical. His lyrics are clever and thoughtful, like the song ‘If I Didn’t Have You’, where he boldly states that statistically, if he was not with his wife, he would be with someone else. I saw Minchin live in 2021, at his tour ‘Back’ which is available to watch – I would recommend it. When I saw him, I was so impressed by his combination of comedy songs with heartfelt ones, and his use of his platform to talk about contemporary issues, such as his discussion about confirmation bias.
Flight of the Conchords
It is always good to end where it started. For me, comedy music started with Flight of the Conchords. Comedy music has been a large part of my life – my dad, brother and sister have always been really into it, particularly this Australian duo. From a very young age I remember us piled on the sofa, watching clips from their TV show on Youtube; as adults, my siblings and I still know and love their songs and have been known to break out into renditions. One of these outbursts occurred as we were leaving a festival this summer: on the way back from a trip to pack up the car, we belted out ‘The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)’ to a delighted audience of cars attempting to leave the site; I’m sure it made their journey ten times better. Flight of the Conchords’ lore is built into their music; the characters they play and the storylines in their show make the songs even funnier.
To sum it up, music can mean lots of things and do lots of great things, but it can also just be funny. I fear that this column may come across as me killing the jokes by explaining them (‘Do you get it? Do you get it? It’s funny because…’) but what I hope is that you can listen to this playlist filled with music that is witty and whimsical and have a little laugh.