Musical Laughs

 

Half Hearted Hand Shake
Half Hearted Hand Shake

I have to come right out and say that I have been off my game with writing so far this year. It isn’t that I have run out of things to say, or music to listen to, or photographs to take. I just…have not been myself lately and feel a lack of focus or desire to sit down and write. But awhile back I had an idea that I have decided to pursue in this post, and while fresh air, exercise, or a good night’s sleep are all good cures for getting yourself out of a funk, there is one other key-laughter. I am aware that this blog might sometimes come off a little heavy handed as I recount the emotional lure that photography and music have for me. But laughter does too, so I wanted to write something that shared my bent over in stitches, shrieking with laughter side as well.

Comedy is a subjective thing of course. There are many types and styles to choose from. Everyone from the ancient Greeks to Shakespeare incorporated comical elements in their stories to loosen the audience up and maybe add a few seats to the arena. Writers like P.G. Wodehouse mastered the art of comic stories with the lovable but bumbling Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves. The early days of cinema were comedy heavy with the greats of silent film like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.  Television got in on the act almost immediately and some of the most successful early TV shows were comedies such as I Love Lucy. Later it became even more absurdist with Monty Python’s Flying Circus and other shows of pure silliness. At some point  stand up comedy became both ground breaking and lucrative for the best performers.  In the last 30 years or so, animated shows like The Simpsons exploded in popularity. With all of the above you can certainly find something to match your style-everything from slapstick to raunchy humor and everything else in between.

One aspect of comedy I have always enjoyed and appreciate however are sketches that combine music and comedy. Though there are countless plays and musicals that accomplish this, I especially enjoy the more modern form.  I could cite dozens of examples,  but the videos here represent some of my favorites. I wanted to focus on some moments of pure humor. Perhaps I should say humour because I have long had a particular devotion to British humour. Here are just a few of my musical favorites to watch.

First up is an absolute classic from Monty Python-The Lumberjack Song. What I came to realize over the years watching the original series is an admiration for how ridiculous the sketches must have been when conceived and discussed before filming. How on earth do you come up with ideas like the Fish Slapping Dance, or mountaineers scaling the sidewalks of a city street? How does one sell the idea of The Ministry Of Silly Walks, Dead Parrots, ‘No one expects the Spanish Inquisition’ or men named Raymond Luxury Yacht (pronounced Throatwobbler Mangrove), to name but a few memorable sketches to TV executives? The same holds true for the Lumberjack Song, as you sing…Sing…SING……

Next up is a classic from the sketch show A Bit Of Fry & Laurie with Stephen Laurie and Hugh Fry. No wait…Fry Stephen and Laurie Hugh. Blast it…I mean of course, Stephen Fry, and Hugh Laurie. When you get annoyed with life just remember to kick some ass!

Now we go to a scene from the show Black Books. Credit to my wife for turning me on to this show with the worst shop keeper (with the best bookstore!) ever-Bernard Black. This scene features Bill Bailey as the much maligned and overworked assistant Manny, figuring out that despite being forbidden to learn piano as a child he has long hidden talents on the instrument (showcasing the very real talent Bill Bailey has on the instrument).

Next is a clip from the wonderful Lenny Henry, featuring some very real tasty guitar work by Jeff Beck. There is a huge body of Lenny’s work I have not seen, but you don’t need to see much to know that he is both a gifted comedian and not too bad of a singer either.  His role as the master of the verbal put down Gareth Blackstock in the series Chef! (who you must never, ever ask for salt on one of his dishes, or worse still, incur his wrath which might lead to a request to see your blood outside the body) will probably always be my favorite. Lenny fully takes on the persona of the characters in his sketches. Just like he does so convincingly here as a blues singer, replete with a ‘great’ harmonica solo.

Finally, having just seen the recent David Brent-Life On The Road mockumentary, I  had to include the classic song Free Love Freeway, first performed on one of my favorite shows ever-The Office. The show has many cringe worthy moments between the employees of the office, but none more so than Ricky Gervais’ portrayal as David Brent.

The thing I realized in putting this post together is that the best musical comedy songs make one laugh at their ridiculousness, while still conveying a sense of being a real song. This is actually the crucial element. The Lumberjack song would not work without the Canadian Mounties choir. The Fry & Laurie sketch would not have the same impact if Hugh Laurie had not decked himself out in shades and slicked back hair. The Black Books scene is so great because Bill Bailey is actually a really gifted musician, while the Lenny Henry sketch had much greater impact with the talent of Jeff Beck. Lastly, Ricky Gervais shows how difficult a skill all of this really is.  He had to believe in the song, and pull it off as David Brent performing it, not as Ricky Gervais the actor. Not at all easy to do when you really think about it.

I’d love to hear some of your favorite comedy moments of all time-be it from a TV show, stand up, or movies in the comments below.

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

 

 

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25 thoughts on “Musical Laughs

    1. You are very welcome! It is as cringe worthy as The Office was, but if you have not already seen the new David Brent movie, I recommend it! The funny thing is that I actually sort of love Freeway Freeway and would probably have it in my collection!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’ve only watched the first few (I’ll have to come back and watch the rest) but my all time favorite has to be the movie you and your lovely wife sent me “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”…that movie had me in stitches. They guy singing about dressing in women’s clothing wasn’t too bad either either. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol Tasha. Do make sure you see the others when you have time. How awesome is it that Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is your favorite! That one will never get old. Yes, I find songs about transvestite Canadian lumberjacks to be a particularly lacking genre of comedy personally 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The Lenny Henry one just works on so many levels-great guitar by Jeff Beck, funny….yet very real observations, and a good parody of blues music as well. I love blues but he nailed it! I actually remember this one from Dennis Leary but I’ve never really been a fan. However, this time I actually laughed a lot so thank you for sharing it and the comment!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this! Hugh Laurie is such a good musical performer, probably because he is such a brilliant actor. Only thing I’d like to add to this list, though it is rather subjective, is The Mighty Boosh. I love all the songs from that show, though “Love Games” is probably the one with the most commercial appeal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Agreed about Hugh Laurie. There were loads of other skits from A Bit Of Fry & Laurie I could have chosen, but this is my favorite.Ironically at the moment I am typing this we are watching an episode of Jeeves and Wooster and Laurie is singing a song called Forty Seven Ginger Headed Sailors! I’ll look that one up. I am aware of the show but have never actually seen it. Thanks for the comment. I’m glad I pulled this one together, and I think there will be a Part 2 at some point. I’m finding that there were loads more I could have put on. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! And I will be checking out your music as well 🙂 I love most types of music, but I write about a lot of folk, rock, country and world music especially, so I’m glad you found me!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Me too. I write songs (working on fourth album) but I also like photography and I see that you like music, photography AND writing. The third of these is why I created an additional wordpress site so I could do some more writing other than on my website, and meet some lovely folks to boot. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I just followed you on FB. And thank you. I’ve been a photographer for about 15 years now, a music fan all my life, and a writer as of when I started this blog over three years ago. I wanted a way to present my photos in a unique way and this has been a wonderful project. I just started writing my first book based around some of these posts. I’ll definitely be checking your music out.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. uapsnu

    I used to keep a Norwegian Blue Parrot called Michael Palin when I was a lumberjack. It used to talk to me about the fiords when I went to the lavatory. I think Monty Python heard about this and it inspired them to write their sketch. Now everybody thinks I’m mad – but I know the truth! I also wish to make it clear that I do not wear women’s clothing when I hang out in bars. And the last time a man buttered my scones I didn’t enjoy it all.

    Liked by 1 person

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