Music That Makes Me Laugh



There are very few musically funny pieces, but Hoffnung was there master, although most required knowledge of classical music to get what he was doing. The first funny piece of music I ever heard was Hoffnung’s drum-roll at the start of his Albert Hall concert, which made everyone in the auditorium stand up, only to transmute itself into something other than ‘God Save The Queen’.

On Hoffnung’s Albert Hall double album there’s an absurd overture with climaxes in the wrong places and absurd instrumentation, but it’s the lyrically silly songs which are more universally appreciated as ‘funny music’.

As a child, for some unearthly reason I memorised the lyrics to ‘Pardon Me, Sir Francis’ by Kenneth Williams (‘If you don’t, Sir Francis, every virtuous maid/ will end up singing Granada up and down the esplanade.’) I was also rather fond of his song ‘Boadicea’, both of which can be found on a rare album called ‘On Pleasure Bent’, which you can actually download because some kind fool has posted it.

I always liked Terry Jones sounding utterly fagged out in the middle of the wonderfully boring song ‘I Like Traffic Lights’, with its awful repetitive chorus. Neil Innes began his lovely ‘Spontaneous’ with this verse:

‘The champagne was Canadian,

The hostess sang a song.

I contemplated suicide

– and then you came along.’

Not everyone listens to lyrics but I think writers are attuned to them, and find it hard to screen them out. The composers of ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ have managed to weave the most unlikely phrases into their songs. There aren’t many ditties you can name that feature lines like; ‘Who gets the cattle-prod every time he humps the samovar?’ Humour often comes from inapposite absurdity.

In the title track of ‘Monty Python’s Life Of Brian’ the absurdity is in parodying John Barry’s 007 brass arrangements for Shirley Bassey and placing them against ludicrously banal lyrics. ‘One off the wrist’ comes as a particular shock to the ears! For ‘Spamalot’, Python dropped a song, ‘You Won’t Succeed On Broadway (If You Don’t Have Any Jews)’ for the UK run because we would have found the blunt use of ‘Jews’ less comfortable than New Yorkers. It was replaced by a very funny song about Bromley which would have meant nothing in NYC.

Examples of funny songs please!


8 comments on “Music That Makes Me Laugh”

  1. Paul Tinkler says:

    Most of ‘The Bonzo dog doo dah bands’ output- ‘Mr Apollo’ & ‘The Big Shot’ are 2 favourites – Viv Stanshall picking his nose on camera on ‘Do not adjust your set’ on TV in the 60s always made me snigger as a boy, & of course Neill Innes was a member of the band as well…

  2. Ken Mann says:

    I have a curious memory of “Loving You Has Made Me Bananas” charting in the UK in the late seventies.

  3. Ken Mann says:

    On the subjects of lyrics, Paddy Roberts is a name no longer on many lips. His oeuvre may be very much of its time, but there are lyrics like “Got an idea you don’t love me any more, got an idea you don’t love me any more, You keep treating me mediocre, hitting me with the poker, got an idea you don’t love me any more”.

  4. M says:

    Anything by the Tiger Lillies. Martyn Jacques is a genius

  5. Emmy says:

    Back in the mid-sixties I was given an LP of Tom Lehrer songs and still remember a couple of gems, such as – Be prepared! that’s the boy scout’s marching song, Be prepared! as through life you march along. Be prepared to hold your liquor pretty well, Don’t write naughty words on walls if you can’t spell …

    Then there was – I hold your hand in mine, dear, I press it to my lips. I take a healthy bite From your dainty fingertips. My joy would be complete, dear, If you were only here, But still I keep your hand As a precious souvenir …

  6. Ford says:

    The marrow Song; as sung by Kenneth Williams. (

    Adge Cutler and the Wurzels. Threshing Machine. (

  7. John Griffin says:

    Oh sweet memory of the Masochism Tango – Lehrer was/is a genius. My daughter heard a tape of him I had (from the 60s) in the late 90s and still cherishes his witty songs.

  8. snowy says:

    Too many to choose from!

    Not remarkable for any lyrical wit perhaps, the ‘Mahna Mahna’ song.

    So far so obvoius, let’s stray a little onto routes less travelled.

    On a reggae tip, ‘Dat’ by Pluto Shervington.

    Reaching waaay back into the vaults ‘Transfusion’ by Nervous Norvus.

    And as Halloween approaches one from the crypt, a very dark ditty and response to the immense popularity of the “splatter platter”; ‘I Want My Baby Back’ by Jimmy Cross. [I don’t want to give anything away, just pay close attention to both the lyrics and the background fx.]

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