On the surface, music and comedy share a great deal of similar DNA when it comes to their craft and how they present their work. But humans share about 80% of the same DNA with the duck billed platypus, yet very few of us look like the end result of a drunk scientist trying to put a rubberized handle on a beaver. So while comedy may not get the credit it deserves as an art form, it winds up opening a considerable lane for it to make fun of a lot of institutions that become very stuffy from how overly revered the artists get. Music is one of the leaders in stuffiness, which is why I always take great joy when a comedian is able to adeptly insult the medium in an incisive way. Here are a few of my favorite examples:
Chris Rock – Defending Rap Music
I’m limiting this list to one joke per comedian because if I didn’t, it would just be a collection of funny Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle bits. They’re seriously lightyears ahead of any other comedian on music. And the way Rock is able to combat the issue of rap being taken seriously from all these different angles is genius. It’s a conversation every rap fan has had to have at one point, and the only defense for a lot of rap songs are that it sounds fucking dope. As a person who lives in a very politically aware climate of 2016, it could lead to a lot of inner conflict. But most of that inner conflict falls by the wayside when it’s 1AM at the bar.
Andy Kaufman – Underdog
Trying to explain why an Andy Kaufman joke is funny leads down a snobbish rabbit’s hole. You’ll either think his coyish attempt to lip sync the lyrics to the Underdog theme song is hilarious or corny. I agree with both sides wholeheartedly.
Hannibal Buress – Odd Future and Young Jeezy
First, Young Jeezy as a real estate agent needs its own HGTV show pronto. Second, Hannibal Buress is able to get to the crux of Odd Future’s faux-edginess better than any credited music critic. Third, spam email is the worstest.
Tig Notaro – Taylor Dayne
Tig’s deadpan delivery is at its best in this 11 minute epic about her frequent run-ins with ‘80s pop star Taylor Dayne. And Taylor Dayne never remembered Tig, despite her deliberately saying the same exact thing to Taylor Dayne each time: “Excuse me. I’m Sorry to bother you. But I just have to tell you. I love your voice.” That’s just the life of an ‘80s pop star, guys. Alt-comedian icons come out in droves just to compliment you. It’s hard to tell them apart after a while.
Eddie Murphy – James Brown
A lot of Eddie Murphy’s stand-up material from the ‘80s would be ripe for Tumblr blog post fodder, but there’s no denying how he’s able completely become the figure he’s impersonating, from the voice to their little idiosyncrasies. Murphy’s James Brown impression is arguably his best and has contributed to the unparalleled success he had on SNL. It was such a good impression that Brown himself wanted Murphy to play him in a biopic.
Mindy Kaling – Illegally Downloading Music
Although she isn’t known as a stand-up, I always loved Mindy Kaling’s joke about online piracy when she performed it at Comedy Death Ray. The bit is a little obsolete now, but it takes me back to those halcyon days of Limewire when I would download incorrectly titled Taking Back Sunday songs and give my laptop about a billion viruses in the process.
Matt Braunger – Jim Morrison
This cartoon of Jim Morrison riding shotgun, drunkenly crooning about whoppers is an indispensable visual aid for people who might find themselves in a contentious situation with a Doors fan. It’s an unenviable position that oftentimes leads a lot of gobbledegook poetry being read aloud. Let the animated Lizard King serve as a distraction and leave the scene immediately.
John Mulaney – Salt And Pepper Diner
One day, John Mulaney and his friend decided to use the music from Tom Jones in an impromptu psych experiment on an unsuspecting diner full of innocent families and possible schizophrenics. What exactly would happen if you play ‘What’s New Pussycat’ over and over and over again? Well, a lot of madness.
Aziz Ansari – Kanye West
Examining Kanye as a character become an everyday sport at this point, but very few people could say they were able to experience The Kanye up close and personal. And since Aziz is a complete outsider to Kanye’s world, he was able to magnify all the tiny, little, crazy things Kanye seemingly does on an everyday basis and thinks nothing of it.
Dana Gould – Clown Fucker (A Morrissey Tribute)
From the pretentious vocabulary, to the dark sing-songiness, Dana Gould creates the quintessential Morrissey parody with Clown Fucker. The crowd even gets in on the fun, and joins him for the final chorus. I’m assuming Morrissey’s never heard this joke, which is a shame because it would be a treat to read his pithy hate statement about the whole thing.
Dave Chappelle – Prince
I’m counting this as stand-up because not having one of the Charlie Murphy related stories on a list like this would be criminal. Every word Chappelle says as Prince has been quoted hard from day one. You really couldn’t go one pick-up game in the mid-00s without hearing something along the lines of ‘shoot the J.. shoot it!” or “game: Blouses.” And Murphy’s fully engaged narration sets the tone perfectly throughout.