Many comedians dabble in music for fun, and very few are serious musicians. Often a single on a spoken-word comedy album is all the music you’ll get from a comedian. This list is the Top 10 (11, really) Original Songs by Comedians, not funny covers or parodies of other specific songs. Okay, smart apples, quit saying Eddie Murphy’s Party All the Time; that song was funny for all the wrong reasons.
10. Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun – Julie Brown
Never one to taste mainstream success, Julie Brown is the ultimate working comedienne. Probably her best known film role is that of the lead in 1989’s Earth Girls are Easy. Now one of the neighborhood moms on ABC’s The Middle, you have to go all the way back to her 1984 EP Goddess in Progress to dig up this gem. Actress, director, voice-over artist, Julie has only limited musical output over the past 30 years of her career.
9. Rappin’ Rodney – Rodney Dangerfield
Hard-working comedian Rodney Dangerfield scored a very unlikely hit in 1983, at the age of 62, on the Rap 100 chart. The song is a play on his stage persona with the “no respect” theme playing throughout. I think it’s safe to say Rodney was one of the few white, senior citizens ever to place a song on the rap charts. Known mostly for his comedy films and standup on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, he released a handful of comedy albums throughout his career and labored on his act right up until his death in 2004.
8. Wappin’ – Darrell Hammond
Out on a book tour now, Darrell Hammond is known as the longest-running cast member in Saturday Night Live’s history, appearing from 1994 to 2009 in over 200 episodes. Known for his dead on impressions, especially of President Bill Clinton, you have to go all the way back into the 80’s to find this single. Hammond does all the voices and nails multiple characters from the Looney Toons universe.
7. Pregnant Women Are Smug – Oates and Garfunkel
Comediennes Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome are the brains behind the duo Oates and Garfunkel. This scathingly funny ditty has over a million hits on YouTube. Even though neither Micucci nor Lindhome are household names, if you have watched any amount of television over the past decade, you have seen them on your favorite network shows, with dozens of supporting roles between them.
6. King Tut – Steve Martin
People tend to forget that before all of the starring movie roles, Steve Martin was one of the top standup comedians of the 1970’s. In 1978, Martin released the comedy album A Wild and Crazy Guy, which shot up to #2 on the pop charts and went double platinum. He later donned the ancient Egyptian garb to perform the song King Tut on Saturday Night Live, the show that helped make him famous.
5. Take Off – Bob and Doug McKenzie
Comedians Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas were anchors on the classic sketch comedy show SCTV in the 1980’s. They created the characters Bob and Doug McKenzie, who went on to record albums, make a movie, become commercial pitchmen and, almost 30 years later, spun off into their own cartoon series. But it was 1981’s Great White North album, which went triple platinum in Canada, which was the peak of their success. Take Off, featuring Geddy Lee from Rush, shockingly shot up to #16 on the American pop charts. Strangely, the song charted higher in America than anything Rush had done up to that point and time.
4. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life – Monty Python
When it comes to comedy, just about everything starts with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which ran on BBC from 1969 to 1974. In 1979, executive producer George Harrison and the boys from Monty Python released, arguably, one of the greatest comedy movies of all time: Life of Brian. As the movie ends, and most of the characters are being crucified, they break out into Eric Idle’s song Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Not so much a hit single as a cultural phenomenon, this song is also found in the Broadway play Spamalot, is often played at soccer matches, and is very popular at British funerals.
3. Lunch Ladyland – Adam Sandler
Almost 20 years before Adam Sandler embarrassed himself with a record 10 awards for Jack and Jill at the Razzie Awards, he was nominated for a Grammy Award for his comedy album They’re All Going to Laugh at You in 1993. The preference here is to remember Sandler singing about the joys of cafeteria meat with the late great Chris Farley, rather than anything he has done in the last 10 years or so.
2. Lazy Sunday – The Lonely Island
The Lonely Island is the comedy team of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer. Released in 2005, this Digital Short changed the entertainment game. Saturday Night Live took a chance here with a slightly different presentation of their comedy and it set the stage for more shorts over the years. With over 5 million hits on YouTube, NBC yanked the video off the site and moved it to Hulu. Within weeks, the digital download was at the iTunes store as the traditional rules of the distribution chain were broken.
Easily the best rap song on the list, some critics also cite this song as one of the pillars of Nerdcore. The first of many hits by The Lonely Island, they later collaborated with such luminaries as T-Pain, Justin Timberlake, and Michael Bolton with great success, even being nominated for a Grammy. If you’re wondering why this song, as opposed to others by Lonely Island, is on the list, check the end of the article and read the note about Jon LaJoie.
1. Tribute – Tenacious D
No one blurs the line between comedy and music more than Jack Black. The first draft of the list didn’t include this song because I always think of Tenacious D as a rock band, not that far removed from GWAR. But before the band Tenacious D, there was the show of the same name on HBO. After re-listening to the song Tribute for the tenth time, this has to be number one. Who else but comedians Jack Black and Kyle Gass could write a great song ABOUT a great song? Dave Grohl lends a helping hand on the single and also plays the devil in the video. If the album didn’t have the bad timing of being released 2 weeks after 9/11, it probably would have been a much bigger hit.
Honorable Mention: A****** – Denis Leary
My personal favorite in this category, but you can’t print the title here. You can’t post the video here. I can’t even print the lyrics here. But if you use a little bit of investigative reporting, you can find the song fairly easily on Denis Leary’s album No Cure for Cancer.
Note: same basic abuse of profanity keeps Jon LaJoie off this list also.
Written By Fred Hunt, Author Of American Suicide, Available Now On iTunes