An orange and yellow bullseye on a gradient red background. Cursive text reads “Make ‘Em Laugh: The Parodies”

Make ‘Em Laugh: The Parodies

By Rebecca Harrell
Music Journalist

Popularized by “Saturday Night Live”, carried out by classics like “Weird Al” Yankovic and The Lonely Island, and now continued on by late night show hosts, YouTubers and rappers, comedy music has transformed from an accent to emphasize a storyline into a surprisingly legitimate genre. 

With my prior knowledge extended by continued research, I’ve divided the genre of comedy music into three standard categories: traditional, tribunal and independent. Though each subcategory entails an individual premise and pathway to execute, altogether the end goal is to simply make people laugh. 

After studying and understanding the foundations of comedy music, we now move on to the tribunal subsection of the genre.

The word tribunal carries a respective, honoring connotation. A tribute usually reflects something in a respectable light. Tribunal comedy music, as I define it, refers to the morphing of already existing musical pieces and transforming it by one’s own lyrics and purpose. “Weird Al” Yankovic paved the way for comedic covers since the ‘80s with his parody “Another One Rides the Bus” from Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”.   

His career launching into full swing, Yankovic  went on to perform hit after hit of complete parody works such as “Amish Paradise” from Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise,” “Fat” from Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and “Yoda” from The Kinks “Lola”. Along with his extensive list of parody smash hits, Al also constructed original songs with their own storyline (which we will get into in Part 3), but overall Yankovic established his fame in his parodies brought to life by his imaginative music videos. 

“Weird Al” Yankovic is dressed in costume reflecting his look in his “Amish Paradise” music video, parodying Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”.
“Weird Al” Yankovic is dressed in costume reflecting his look in his “Amish Paradise” music video, parodying Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

As concluded in my previous article about foundational comedy music, the popular “Saturday Night Live” television show familiarized and standardized a common connection between laughter and music. 

Every weekly episode includes at least one musical number, whether it be professionally produced music videos featuring the guest celebrity or an in-skit jingle like Justin Timberlake’s recurring “Something-Ville” sketch where they rap and sing over popular tunes like “It’s Tricky” by Ru/n – D.M.C. and “Rude Boy” by Rihanna to promote whatever business is  involved in the skit. 

These covers transformed with completely different lyrics for comedic aspect show off the second category of musical comedy: parody. They elevate the skit with a catchy, well-known tune, making you laugh and sing simultaneously.

Tribunal, or parody, music presents its comedy in a more familiar style, making it more susceptible to the listeners liking. We can add these songs to our playlists and enjoy singing along to classic tunes with a humorous twist. 

Though the melodies may be borrowed, the lyricism of the artists shows their creativity and ability to upcycle and make something of their own. In the third and final installment of this series, we’ll look at independent comedy music invented from the ground up.

Featured image by Rebecca Harrell via Canva.

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