Your turntable isn’t just for music. Comedy records are a fine vinyl tradition, and novelty songs and parodies have been around even longer—heck, Mozart probably busted out a fart song or two. And while any idiot can sing the wrong lyrics over a pop song, these 10 records prove that, just as there’s an art to constructing a joke, there are actual musical chops that go into making a good musical comedy song. While a stand-up album gets dull after you’ve heard the punchlines a few times, a good comedy album is something you can play at a party, or hum while you shop for groceries… and no one will be the wiser that you’re actually singing about Stonehenge or cable TV or a weekend in a funeral parlor. So when you just can’t take another miserable dirge, sappy love song or 10 minute guitar solo, we’ve got you covered.
It’s hard to pick a best album from “Weird Al” Yankovic’s multi-generation spanning career as the king of parody songs, but if you’re anything like me, when you hear Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” or Huey Lewis’ “I Want a New Drug,” you instinctively start singing “Like a Surgeon” or “I Want a New Duck.” But what makes Yankovic so enduring is that these aren’t just silly lyrics over pop songs; as he proves on the album’s eponymous, Devo-inspired track, he’s a genius musician, able to parse out exactly what makes a song work and tap into that sound. Yankovic’s goofy early material has aged surprisingly well, and with the continuation of Mark Hamill’s presence the Star Wars movies, Yankovic may have predicted his career trajectory when he sang, “These long-term contracts that I had to sign / means I’ll be making these movies till the end of time” in “Yoda.”
With classic tracks like “Eric the Half a Bee” and “Cheese Shop,” do you really need any other records? Of course you do, which is why they put out a second version for U.S. audiences, featuring “The Lumberjack Song” and “Argument Clinic.” Comprised of both classic skits and songs from the famed British comedy troupe, they’re British, so it’s fancy, not crass, when they sing “Sit on My Face.” The gents were known for being sublimely absurd—the random innuendo patter of “Nudge Nudge” or treating Thomas Hardy’s writing of Return of the Native like a fast-paced cricket game—and although reciting Monty Python skits is a time-honored tradition, it’s always best to hear them in the original. Play it when the queen comes to tea.
Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t love Spinal Tap. Before he was the loathsome Charles McGill on Better Call Saul, Michael McKean was David St. Hubbins, the frontman for heavy metal gods Spinal Tap in Rob Reiner’s cult classic mockumentary. With a film soundtrack that presents itself as a rock album in the style of AC/DC and Black Sabbath, Spinal Tap isn’t just hysterical, McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer are legitimate rockers, with songs well-constructed beyond a few chords and a joke. Give your local record store some money (earned from working at the Sex Farm, obviously) and crank that dial all the way up to 11.
With the exception of the National’s covers of “Sailors in Your Mouth” and “Bad Stuff Happens in the Bathroom,” the album doesn’t extend the songs to be any longer than the joke requires. The majority of them are just under a minute, just as they’re sung on the hit cartoon which is perfect for a track like “The Diarrhea Song,” which could get old really fast. Your inner Louise will shriek at all of the Boyz-4-Now tracks, and there are plenty of contributions from Jimmy Jr., Linda, Bob and even Megan Mullally, both as the hapless Gayle and the breathy, Tori Amos-inspired Tabitha Johansson. Hopefully, Cyndi Lauper—who contributes the Goonies inspired “Taffy Butt”—will take a cue from Gene and Courtney’s musical theater production of “Work Hard Or Die Tryn’, Girl” as she composes the music for her newest Broadway undertaking, a musical rendition of Working Girl.
Admit it, you’ve got “Jack Sparrow” stuck in your head right now. And why not? It’s catchy, made catchier by Michael Bolton’s sexy, sexy voice. Remember, this is a comedy album, so do not take the advice in “The Creep,” but bonus points for making it equal-opportunity with a verse by Nicki Minaj. This album is such a jam that if you weren’t paying attention to the relentlessly silly lyrics, you might think your living room had turned into the hottest club on the planet, even if the “After Party” is kind of an existential nightmare featuring snake murder and a craps game gone horrifically bad.
Before Bret McKenzie was an Oscar-winning Hollywood songwriter, he was one half of folk-comedy duo Flight of the Conchords with Jemaine Clement. It’s clear on their eponymous LP that they genuinely love and respect the song stylings they parody, from the Pet Shop Boys (“Inner City Pressure”) to David Bowie (“Bowie”). A low-fi alternative to The Lonely Island, you can put on “The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)” for your girl and try to kiss her through both of you cracking up.
A lot of actors want to be rock stars. Jack Black and Kyle Gass are rock stars. Assisted in the studio by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Page McConnell of Phish, the two goofballs create an immense stadium sound. And while “Tribute” may not be the Greatest Song in The World—they couldn’t remember it, after all—it’s a genuine enough replica of the real thing to pass. And while songs like “Fuck Her Gently” and “Kielbasa” are after-class humor, “Rock Your Socks” elevate the poop joke with a surf-rock showcase of a genuine understanding of how rock songs come together, from Bach to blues, while “Wonderboy” makes D&D cool. Time to pass the torch of hard rockin’, Ronnie James Dio.
A classic, including “Cat Handcuffs” and, of course, Steve Martin’s surprise hit, “King Tut,” this album is a howl from start to finish. It’s a shame that the record doesn’t allow you to see Martin in all of his physical, prop-laden glory—arrow through the head, Happy Feet—but when he taunts a heckler with “I remember when I had my first beer,” you’ll feel like you’re right there in the audience. French travel tips, a crash course in philosophy, unknown facts about Da Vinci, chances are you’ve heard your dad quote this a time or two, but there’s nothing as good as hearing the original.
Impress your friends with a worldly purchase of an album by Canada’s beloved McKenzie Brothers (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas). The album invites you into the studio and even makes you a guest during “You Are Our Guest,” with your part included in the liner notes, and even tucks you in for a bedtime story with “Ralph the Dog.” Arguments break out, donut runs are made and there’s plenty of beer for everyone. Make sure to remove your toque and set down your beer for the “Canadian National Anthem” and “Take Off” (feat. Geddy Lee of Rush).
Don’t tell anyone you’re putting on “Let’s Talk Dirty To the Animals” and watch the reaction as Gilda Radner’s broad voice and sweet piano quickly descend into blissful madness. Comprised of live skits and songs, featuring several of her Saturday Night Live characters… Give it to the grad in your life and hope that they learn Roseanne Roseannadanna’s best advice—”Just sit quite still and don’t you move during your interview / ’cause if you move your boss will think the fart came out of you.”