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

Make ‘Em Laugh: The Independents

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 understanding the early foundations of comedy and parody music, we now look at independent comedy music, composed more so from an idea rather than a pre-established story. 

Although “Weird Al” Yankovic found his fame in parodying popular hits as discussed in the second part of this series, he also composed his own comedic songs solely from his own imagination, which is what I define the independent subgenre of comedy music to be. These pieces are composed like any other song, based off of any idea from the creator. What makes independent comedy music so distinct from other genres is how they tell a story. The story may be completely fabricated to make us laugh, nonetheless still producing an enjoyable piece of music.

Comedy songwriters have spawned from the music scene as well as the internet within the last decade. Matt Watson is a young internet comedian with only a few songs of his own published, yet all fall under the comedic genre. His first song, a parody, “Crank Dat Nerdy Boy,” was posted on his YouTube channel back in 2008 in which he took the tune of Soulja Boy’s “Crank That” and reverbed the lyrics to a song about nerds. In “Tribute to John McCain,” he sings about how his heart breaks because he will never see John McCain in the governmental scene again. Obviously, a politician is seldom the subject for music, but to comedically rap about something usually taboo elevates the humor to the song. 

“In Love With My Dad” is the song that introduced me to Watson on my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist, and in the song he explicitly raps about his love affair with his father. The lyrics themselves are hilarious if you pay attention, but the beat of the backtrack and the flow of his voice is what makes the song able to be categorized as hip hop as well.

More commonly now, comedy internet personalities have composed their own music to add to a sketch in their work, but some have also dropped complete albums of independent comedy music. My personal favorites Cody Ko and Noel Miller, together as Tiny Meat Gang (TMG), have been releasing music since 2017, although they have been popular on the internet since the era of Vine.

Their songs all usually tell an oddly specific story to emphasize the motif of being rich (or poor) and popular. In “Stay Safe,” they preach helpful safety tips, like wearing a helmet while riding a bike and wearing your seatbelt. TMG has gained a notable amount of clout from their comedic tunes, landing them a collaborative song with artist blackbear, “Short Kings Anthem” where they rap about owning their height, a reoccurring subject to much of their comedy.  

Noel Miller stands left of Cody Ko on a theater stage. They are both spotlighted by overhead lights. A projector screen above them reads “TMG” on top of a tye-dye blue background.
Comedians Noel Miller (left) and Cody Ko perform live comedy and music on their tour on February 16 in Austin. Image by Rebecca Harrell.

Another internet comedian who has made their way to the top of musical comedy is YouTuber Danny Gonzales. He has created multiple singles on topics of his commentary videos, such as “Johnny Johnny” and “I’m Gonna Kill Santa Clause,” both of which made it to the number one spot on the iTunes charts under the comedy music genre after their release.

What makes the independent subgenre of comedy music distinct from the other two is that artists create their work, like musicians from traditional genres, from their imagination and creativity but for a comedic purpose. Their music tells a story that will make us laugh but disguises itself through their musicality. 

I personally love independent comedy music because the tunes are always catchy, and I can sing and simultaneously laugh along. If you’ve never listened to independent comedy music, I suggest you check out Watson, TMG and Gonzales on any music streaming service and give yourself a laugh. 

Featured image by Rebecca Harrell.

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