Comedy with Musical Instruments

Garfunkel & OatesThe internet is wonderful because you get to discover so many things you might otherwise have missed. It can also be a bit embarrassing because you learn about something terrific which other people have known about for years. “How could I have missed that?” That’s how I felt when I recently discovered Garfunkel and Oates. I’m not sure how I stumbled onto them. It might have been my current infatuation with all things ukulele. Kate Micucci plays ukulele and is incredibly cute. Her partner is Ricky Lindhome. She is the tall blond guitar player of the duo. They write and perform humorous songs – most not suitable for the young. Very clever lyrics and charming performances. If you’re offended by sexual language or “bad” words, do not watch the last two videos I’ve included in this post.

After watching almost every YouTube video I could find for Garfunkel and Oates I thought a blog about comedians who use music as part of their act would be fun to do. I love both comedy and music and thus would love to share this with you. But when I began to research this topic I discovered it was a bit complicated and overwhelming. First, I don’t want to discuss the art form known as “Musical Comedy” because that is not the same as comedians who use music. I don’t want to include all the comedians who have used an instrument as a prop but really didn’t use music as a humorous part of their act. Finally Wikipedia listed 141 comedians who play an instrument on stage as part of their act. That’s too many for me to cover in a post. See Wikipedia if you want to to look up all comedians who use instruments. I’ve therefore decided to limit this to a personal list of some of my favorites. My criteria for today: comedians who compose funny songs as well as play an instrument while performing their material.

Tom Lehrer

One of the earliest musical comedians I remember as being fresh when I was young (that is, not comedians who had careers going back to before I was born) is Tom Leherer. He was a mathemtician with a Harvard degree who also composed and performed musical comedy. A well known tune of his is Poisoning Pigeons in the Park (below). However, a personal favorite of mine is the Elements Song (After all, I am a retired scientist).

Mose Allison

Mose Allison isn’t a comedian. He’s a jazz and blues pianist, singer and composer. But he’s written some very funny songs. Because he’s a favorite of mine, I’m including him here. Also, one of my favorite “science” based humor songs follows logically after Tom Lehrer. It’s the Mose Allison tune, Your Molecular Structure. Another favorite of mine is Your mind is on Vacation (and your mouth is working overtime).

Garfunkel and Oates

I’ve already mentioned Garfunkel (Ricky Lindhome) and Oates (Kate Micucci). Here’s one of their cleaner videos about what would happen if gay marriage were legalized. If you like this you might want to see the music video version. The video here is showing them perform the song.

Katie Goodman

Katie Goodman is another musician/comedian I’ve discovered this year. She is part of Broad Comedy, written and directed by herself and her husband, Soren Kisiel. Their YouTube video MILFs is great if you haven’t seen it. However, the video I’m showing here is of just Katie Goodman performing “I Didn’t F*ck Up”. I provide online tech support as part of my day job and and this song really resonates with me.

Disqualified Favorites

Because I had to set limits on who I wanted to bring to your attention, I was forced to omit many funny musicians (or musical comedians). Here’s a few who I had originally considered including before I came up with today’s criteria.

  • Steve Allen. Steve Allen was the original host of the tonight show. He originated many classic television bits that are still being copied. The fake news show is one of them. He was a multi-talented musician and composer and often had a piano on stage with him. He was also a geek. He made an application to have the ABC music notation made into a MIME type.
  • The Smothers Brothers. Both funny and musical but most of their bits were woven around songs but weren’t the song itself.
  • Steve Martin. Started as a magician and banjo player. He still plays banjo and occasionally writes funny songs. But the humor he is remembered for isn’t in his songs.
  • Eric Idle (and Monty Python in general). Eric plays guitar and wrote many of the famous and funny Monty Python songs including Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and the Universe Song. However, we associate his music with Monty Python sketches or movies, not with Eric performing them accompanied by guitar.

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