Art of the comedy band – Metro US

Art of the comedy band

If you think it’s hard being a singer in a rock band, imagine trying to hit every note and make your audience laugh at the same time. It’s a task only musical comedy acts have to face, and it’s not as easy as it looks.

“A lot of people do really bad musical comedy,” says Sean Cullen, one of Canada’s most popular comedy singers and a former member of Corky and the Juice Pigs. “A lot of people tend to pick up a guitar and sing a song; it’s often quite terrible.”

When it’s done right, though, joke bands can win over fans in both the music and comedy worlds. Just look at New Zealand duo Flight of the Conchords, who not only launched the second season of their hilarious TV show on Jan. 18, but won a Grammy for best comedy album last year.

Other acts — Tenacious D, Andy Samberg’s The Lonely Island — are making it easier for up and coming artists to connect with audiences, which, says Cullen, are often weary of musical comedy bands.

But, getting to the point where an act can play theatres or packed clubs is no easy task, especially when comedians look down on joke acts, and the music community avoids comedic bands at all costs.

“Standups think musical comedy is a hacky thing to do. They think it’s cheating,” says Cullen. “And ever since we’ve started we’ve had musicians saying they hate joke bands.”

“I never get respect from the media or booking agents,” adds Hamilton-based B.A. Johnston, who tours bars rather than comedy clubs. “CBC Radio 3 wouldn’t interview me cause they thought I would swear on air. I thought that was odd.”

Winning people over is challenging, not just because these acts have to make their audience laugh, but they have to write good music too. John Catucci, one half of Toronto’s The Doo Wops, writes everything from emo to pop and heavy metal. But when it comes down to it “if the song isn’t good it just doesn’t fit,” he says. “A good song and good funny lyrics, they mix into one.”

“You have to appeal on a couple levels to be really successful,” Johnson adds. “You want it to be funny and people need to personally connect with it. You want it catchy, and so you have to write a good song.”

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