Comedy music is said to be a dying art. Gone are the days when comedy records graced the Billboard Top 10 and won Album Of The Year Grammys. In fact, judging from radio's limited ability to experiment with humor if they do so at all, outside of "Weird Al" Yankovic and Adam Sandler one might think that there is simply nothing else out there.
Comedy music has broad age appeal; it's not just a baby-boomer thing. People of all ages like to hear comedy, and I think there is some justification of that. There are new generations of fans of, say, "Weird Al" Yankovic, and one big fan is 14-year-old Weird Stefanie, who appearred with him on a Donny and Marie show in February and absolutely loves his music dating back to the days when the Knack was singing the praises of "My Sharona", which Al parodies into "My Bologna." So Stefanie likes music that was before her time. I also like music before my time. Neither of us cares when the music was made; what's important is that good comedy shouldn't only appeal to just one generation. In Al's case, his music appeals to that 14-year-old and THIS 40-year-old reporter.
I for one pretty much remembered the comedy records more so than I remembered the other hits mainly because of their unusual approach to music and sometimes stating a witty commentary of the state of some current affair in any given field or just designing it as pure entertainment. Comedy music is much more than Chipmunks singing or Dead Puppies or Weird Al's ten studio albums and anything like that. It's a genre so big in itself that it sould be programmed as a viable format as well.
Why comedy doesn't sound good enough for radio? I just don't know. Radio listeners should listen to comedy if they want to enrich themselves, but a lot of people either don't care for it or they haven't been exposed to it through any channel whatsoever.
San Diego radio, for example, is enriched financially with corporate bottom line goals and predictable playlists, but San Diego radio is poor culturally as far as comedy is concerned. Today's radio programmers are either not educated in the variety that comedy music brings to radio formats, or they are big fans of it and their corporate suits won't allow them to "experiment" with comedy their formats. Whatever the case, the losers are the radio listeners who are being spoon-fed monotony of sameness and predictabily from stations such as 91X, Channel 933, McMix 95.7, KGB, and, I hate to say this, but even the independent Sets 102.1 is as culturally dead comedy-wise as their corporate-controlled competetors. Comedy could even liven up their often too-mellow playlists on Sets every now and then! Everybody is a target in my radio column, even stations I listen to the most.
I mentioned Weird-Al earlier. 91X, for example, could play his Nine-Inch-Nails styled comedy song "Germs" off the "Running With Scissors" CD, Planet 103.7 could play "The Saga Begins", Channel 933 could play "It's All About The Pentiums", which sounds like a rock-rap style, 91X and Star could play his "Pretty Fly for a Rabbi", Star could play "Grapefruit Diet", KSON could play "Truck Driving Song", and if Channel 933 has any intelligence, they could play the pop-themed "Polka Power"
While corporate radio has been slamming the doors on novelty records in the days of tighltly-programmed playlists, a revolution of comedy music has been brewing on the Internet for the past four years.
Dozens on top of dozens of comedy musicians and troupes have been putting out CD's of collections as well as many more featuring original songs. You can find my Comedy Album Store at my website at http://www.davesfunstuff.com.
While comedy has been a viable genre on the Internet, it has been absent from commercial radio today.
Hundreds of acts have put together their own websites to sell their own comedy records. Amazon and CD Now sell them through the Internet. Radio still won't play them.
A dozen Internet-only comedy radio shows are streaming on the Internet today. College radio stations are also playing some of the comedy music that's coming out today. Corporate broadcast radio just isn't interested and it's just too bad for them.
One act that has been getting airplay on Dr. Demento, Crazy Jay, Chris Waffle, Loopy, and other comedy shows in 1999 is the Toluca Lake, California based Throwing Toasters, who just put out a CD last month.
Since it's inception in 1995, Throwing Toasters has unleashed a steady stream of "Alternative Rock Comedy Music" on an unsuspecting public, who have embraced the band with their laughter. Straying from the usual standard (and some would say tired) comedy music convention of song parody, Throwing Toasters crafts new words and music about love and everyday life.
They have released two CD's, ALVIN (July 1999), which sold out it's initial run in under a year and burnt (May 2000), which received numerous pre-orders before it's debut and has sold strong since.
Burnt (Buy It Here!) just released in May features several previously-unreleased songs such as Debbie and A.T.M., in all, 16 16 newly recorded tracks. Their song "Debbie" was named #2 favorite new comedy song of 1999!
Throwing Toasters, who touts itself as World's Greatest Alternative Rock Comedy Band, recorded the "Burnt" album live at Hallenbeck's in North Hollywood, CA. The album was mixed and engineered by Grammy Award Winning engineer Steve Pouliot. The name of the CD was chosen from a multitude of suggestions made by Throwing Toaster's fans. The winning suggestion, "burnt" was made by toaster fan Jess Burley!
Throwing Toasters spent many years around the Los Angeles club circuit, performing their comedy alternative rock songs at various venues including Crazy Jay's Nights of Comedy as well as touring with four other comedy acts in the B.O.R.E.D. tour during 1999.
Drew Carey has raved that he, "loves [Throwing Toasters'] show," and Dr. Demento has said that the band is "One of comedy music future stars," proving that despite the "where's the band?" controversy, Throwing Toasters is a force on today's comedy music scene.
Band members: Grant Baciocco (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Dirk Underwood (Guitar/Vocals), Timmy DuFell (Bass/Vocals), and Stev "Musty" Jurgens (Drums/Vocals)
The B.O.R.E.D. Tour in which the Throwing Toasters toured, mostly just the lead vocalist Grant, put out a CD last year "The B.O.R.E.D. Tour Vol. 1 CD!" packed with 25 tracks of some of the best highlights of the first ever B.O.R.E.D. Tour show that took place on May 6, 1999! The artists performing in last year's tour were Leaser McFwap, Raymond and Scum who put out a commentary about the state of comedy music "(Nobody Loves) The Comedy Band" as well as the funny "Time With Your Wife", Hot Waffles led by Chris Waffle, who does his own comedy radio show on the Internet, the aforementioned Throwing Toasters, and this act that also put out a CD of his own, Larry "The Dream" Weaver.
The B.O.R.E.D. Tour CD might still be available c/o Throwing Toasters P.O. Box 2764 Toluca Lake, CA 91610.
Larry Weaver just put out a comedy CD Everybody's Crazy But Me!!! (Buy this from amazon.com!) this past year. Larry's CDs are already receiving nationwide airplay thanks to Dr. Demento. Similar shows across the country have followed suit. Could Larry be the next Weird Al? Or maybe even the next Ray Stevens? You can have a hand in Larry's fate by requesting your favorite song on the radio if you can. The syndicated John Boy and Billy Big Show (http://www.thebigshow.com) is heard weekdays 6-10 AM ET (3-7AM PT) on great radio stations across America except cultually-bankrupt San Diego and Los Angeles and plays comedy music. Do any of the morning shows play comedy music? Howard Stern, Dave, Shelly, Chainsaw, etc. etc. Just talk talk talk. Boring!
Check out his website http://www.larryweaver.com/ to see what radio stations and shows are wise enough to take a chance on playing comedy music such as Larry's. You can see a lot of cool features such as Pictures and videos from the Weird Al Fan Convention, Shockwave fun: Create-a-character, Video Clips from his East Coast CD Release party, New shows added in NC (Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham) and SC (Greenville), and more!
The highlight of May for Larry was performing at The Weird Al Yankovic Fan Convention (AlCon 2000) in Chicago. He got to meet Dr. Demento and all of the great Weird Al fans from across the country.
Larry Weaver is no ordinary performer. During a show, he blends pop-culture laden comedy with off-the-wall songs to create a unique entertainment experience.
Larry has been gaining a cult following across the globe since releasing his debut album, "Pack Full of Comedy" in 1998. Thanks to exposure on syndicated radio programs such as Dr. Demento and savvy Internet marketing, Larry's mailing list claims fans from 8 countries and nearly every state in the U.S. In 1999, Larry's hit "Grandpa's Gone Gangsta" spent much of the year at the #2 spot on the comedy charts at mp3.comúsecond only to MTV heavyweight Tom Green.
Weaver is no stranger to the stage. He formed sketch comedy group Selected Hilarity while a student at the University of North Carolina. After graduation, the group headlined over 500 shows in 33 states. They were so popular that the National Association of Campus Activities nominated them in 1996 and 1997 for Comedy Act of the Year. Now on his own, Larry's shows include songs that range from rock 'n roll to rap and from bluegrass to blues.
A former professional wrestling manager, Larry's eclectic interests include web design, rap music and late-night infomercials. His goal is to one day fight Stone Cold Steve Austin on Pay-Per-View. Whether it's on the radio, on stage or in the ring, a Larry Weaver performance will delight anyone who loves to have fun.
Larry worked with Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Damon Wayans, Faith Hill and many others.
Thanks to the Internet, comedy musicians are getting the mass exposure they deserve at long last.
For links to the comedy artists, comedy shows, playlists of several comedy shows, and more, visit my home page at http://www.davesfunstuff.com
Comedy music is alive and well on the Internet. The revolution is not being televised over corporate-controlled radio, but eventually, comedy will get much more respect as their fans demand a comedy radio format in their cities as the years go on.
Conventional radio won't touch original comedy because it's expensive to produce, and the returns just don't outweigh the cost. I'm hoping (in a small way) to revive radio comedy and return popularity to the dead art.
On another note: Does anyone know anything about securing rights to broadcast album comedy (classic comedy such as Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, George Carlin, etc...?) Are there any hoops to jump through to get this kind of thing on the air?
I play "Weird" Al, Stan Freberg, Dayton Allen, Steve Allen, generally clean comics from the 50's and 60's with occasional visits from Rob Bartlett and Charlie Prose.
Problem? KGY is a 24/7 1000 watt radio station, where the signal never leaves the parking lot. ;)
But it does...yeah, it does.
KGY AM 1240
I totally agree with you about comedy on the radio. No one will touch it.
Except, stations playing contemporary folk music, mostly non-commercial stations. The annual Festival of Funny Songwriters at the Sommerville Theater in Sommerville, MA, is always a sell out, and those artists are frequently heard on the various folk music programs around New England. Although, I've noticed on even some of those programs there is a trend away from the funny stuff and towards more of the serious stuff.
Lake Wobegone, NH
The glut of 'comedy clubs' in the 80's with every man and woman with a pulse dropping off tapes at stations , I think took its toll.
Too, too bad. Even living in the supposedly "avant garde" San Francisco area, I recall hearing one comedy song (I'm Fat, I'm Forty, and I Don't Get No Booty) in the past 5 years.
Doin' the *Monster Mash*
Not nearly enough comedy on the radio outside of lame cranked-out morning show parodies-du-jour...
Senior Producer, Winstar Radio Services
I have a radio show on WUSB 90.1fm on Long Island, NY. My show is geared for stand-up comedy, comedy songs, song parodies, sketch comedy and other comedy recordings. I interview stand-up comics from all over the country, either by phone or live in studio. We have a great time and the audience loves it. I believe my formula works great, and the show has a great buzz throughout the comedy industry. Although WUSB is a 'college' radio station, I have high hopes that my show can blossom into something bigger.. If only given the chance... (any takers??)
Anyway, just wantde to add my 2 cents.. To answer the question, 'Does Comedy Belong on the Radio Anymore?' My answer is HELL FRIGGIN' YES!!
Almost forgot to include my web site for anyone interested in visiting..
The DD Radio Show on WUSB 90.1 FM
Dave...WOW! Thanks for all the great press!
You can visit their websites: http://members.aol.com/throtoastr/ for their offcial website
Which is actually now http://www.throwingtoasters.com through the glorious power of website forwarding!
The B.O.R.E.D. Tour CD might still be available c/o Throwing Toasters P.O. Box 2764, Toluca Lake, CA 91610.
THe B.O.R.E.D. TOur CD is still around! THey are sort of made to order, so order one and I'll make it for ya! $6 to Throwing Toasters to the above address.
Oh and B.O.R.E.D. 2000 is coming....
THanks again Dave!
Throwing Toasters - "The Best At What They Do!"
www.throwingtoasters.com - - www.mp3.com/throwingtoasters
Buy "Burnt" Here: Amazon
The problem with bands/groups/artists who put out comedy albums, is that their material is LONG. Of course this is just my opinion, and I'm not aware that there's any research to back it up.
My personal feeling is that the shorter the comedy bit, the better. The longer the piece gets, the more redundant and less funny it becomes.
Most of the production companies keep comedy bits under 2:00 minutes, whereas Weird Al and others tend to go 3:30+.
Just remember the old saying... "Less is more". I personally think this is applicable to radio comedy today.