Two men on a panel at a press conference after a figure skating competition, both holding their fists in the air with the title “Montreal Jeux De Monde Wintersports” displayed behind them.

The Use of Comedy Samples in Music

By Kaitlyn Watson
Music Journalist 

Music in film has always been an integral part of the overall experience. While that is the most common way a song can be associated with a movie or television show, sometimes it’s the media sampled in the music that makes an impact. Across genres and age demographics, comedy in music has held true as a common theme, and I want to explore how closely the two can be intertwined through the use of direct clips and samples from sitcoms and slapstick movies in certain songs. 

“N***** in Paris” by Jay-Z, Kanye West

Watch the Throne has been one of the most loved hip-hop albums of this century, and “N***** in Paris” has held up as a single with critics and mainstream lovers for years. I distinctly remember downloading the clean version onto my iPhone 5 and recognizing the sample from “Blades of Glory” immediately. West and Jay-Z used Will Ferrell and John Heder’s dialogue from the 2007 movie to seal the deal on making this song as iconic as possible. 

Most people today will associate “We’re gonna skate to one song and one song only,” with “N***** in Paris” rather than the song that Ferrell’s character was referring to in the movie: “My Humps” by The Black Eyed Peas. Using a direct callback to Ferrell, who was dominating 2000s comedy, shows that West and Jay-Z understand the roots that hip-hop has in comedy and how to “get the people going!” 

“The Need to Know” by Wale feat. SZA

“The Need to Know” by Wale featuring SZA showcases dialogue from a “Seinfeld” season 2 episode titled, “The Deal.” The episode is about Jerry and Elaine transitioning their relationship from strictly platonic to romantic, and this mirrors the lyrics of the song. More notably, this song was released in 2015, and this sample sheds light on the intense love for 1990s sitcoms in current pop culture. As if the $100 million deal that Netflix signed in order to keep “Friends” for a year in 2018 was not indicative enough, people are wild for 1990s nostalgia.

“My Strange Addiction” by Billie Eilish 

Like most teenagers, Billie Eilish has been very vocal about her love for “The Office.” It was unsurprising that this was the situational comedy she chose to feature on her latest album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? The samples used on “My Strange Addiction” are from a season 7 episode titled “Threat Level Midnight,” and the song’s introduction features Michael Scott calling her by name. 

Binge watching and streaming is becoming known as our primary way of consuming shows like “The Office” and the song’s namesake, “My Strange Addiction.” These samples are a true testament to Billie’s age of 17 years old and this demographic’s affliction for becoming obsessed with sitcoms that have been off the air for years. 

“Too Funky” by George Michael 

Speaking of “cringe comedy,” 1967 film “The Graduate” is considered one of the first movies that really leaned into the audience finding humor in uncomfortable situations. The oldest song on this list, “Too Funky” samples Mrs. Robinson’s infamous, “Would you like me to seduce you?” line. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of not knowing who George Michael is, ask your mom about the Wham! posters she hung up in her childhood bedroom. 

With a music video featuring Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and other 1990s original supermodels, Michael’s favored message of idolizing glamorous, independent women was clear. “The Graduate” was perfectly sampled because there’s something that American media always gets right: there’s nothing more glamorous than 1960s California and wealthy suburban cougars.

Featured image via IMDb.

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s