|Cultural origins||Early 1950s, US|
Mid-1950s — early 1960s, UK
|Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California, United States|
Early bands and songs
Early American examples include Stan Freberg, who lampooned artists such as Elvis Presley, Harry Belafonte and the Platters, and Sheb Wooley. The latter's "Purple People Eater" reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart in 1958 and stayed there for 6 weeks.
In Britain during the 1950s and early 1960s comedians such as Charlie Drake and the Goons frequently appeared in the top ten with humorous rock 'n' roll records—the latter, along with Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, were to influence the word-play of John Lennon's lyrics. Later British groups specialised in comedy: these included the Scaffold, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias. Later in Britain, in the 2000s, Mitch Benn released several studio albums that satirised current affairs using various musical genres, but mainly rock. His 2012 Breaking Strings album was critically acclaimed for its rock sensibility.
AllMusic described Frank Zappa as the "godfather" of comedy rock. The pop rock and folk rock band the Turtles released a comedy rock album, The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands, in 1968, though the band had previously incorporated humor into their songs. Two of its members, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, later performed more explicitly comedic songs as Flo & Eddie with their own band and with Frank Zappa.
Several modern comedy rock bands have experienced mainstream commercial success. Duos Tenacious D and Flight of the Conchords both released platinum-selling albums and starred in their own respective comedic television series. Dan Finnerty with his the Dan Band has made comedy rock appearances in the Todd Phillips films Old School and The Hangover spoofing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and "Candy Shop", as well as his live show, which parodies female cover songs and was filmed as a one-hour TV special directed by McG and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. Stephen Lynch from New York developed a following with several Opie and Anthony appearances which led to two specials on Comedy Central. He performed on Broadway with the production of Grease.
With over 12 million albums sold, song parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic remains the highest-selling comedy act in history, with his 2014 album Mandatory Fun having debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, the first comedy album to do so since Allan Sherman's My Son, the Nut in 1963. Rock has been the target of many spoofs and several spoof bands have gone on to have hit records, for example Spinal Tap in the U.S., and the Hee Bee Gee Bees and Bad News in the UK. The band Steel Panther has become a fixture on the Los Angeles Sunset Strip with their parody of 80s glam metal, and their success has opened the doors for other spoof bands such as the Jimi Homeless Experience. Other spoof bands such as Dread Zeppelin, Beatallica and Those Darn Accordions rely on unusual or intentionally contrasting genre-mixing for comic effect. The Residents are well-known for their unusual, heavily distorted covers of pop and rock songs. Comedy rock duo Ninja Sex Party, who have collaborated with Steel Panther on occasion, blend rock and synthpop and have produced songs that parody the dubstep and heavy metal genres. They have enjoyed success from their online popularity. Another band, Primus, is known for their wacky lyrics and comedic music videos. Gorillaz is a British virtual band whose fictional, animated members parody contemporary trends in popular music.
Geddy Lee of Rush did a guest appearance on the novelty Take Off, supporting his grade school classmate Rick Moranis. The song peaked at number 16 on the Billboard 100 singles chart in March 1982, higher than any of Rush's songs ever charted on the U.S. top 40. Despite selling 40 million albums worldwide, Rush's biggest hit on that chart, "New World Man", reached only number 21, and thus "Take Off" was Lee's biggest hit.
Many bands within the alternative rock and college rock spectrum are known for their incorporation of humorous and satirical songs, with bands such as Mindless Self Indulgence, They Might Be Giants, the Presidents of the United States of America, Bloodhound Gang, System of a Down, Ween and Camper Van Beethoven finding both mainstream and independent success in the United States, as well as successful foreign bands such as Parokya ni Edgar and Knorkator. Punk rock and pop punk has made its contribution to the comedy rock ranks, with such bands as the Aquabats, Blink-182, Bowling for Soup, Patent Pending, Dead Kennedys, the Dead Milkmen, the Meatmen and the Radioactive Chicken Heads.
Heavy metal has also produced many humor-oriented and satirical bands, including Green Jellÿ, Lawnmower Deth, Massacration, M.O.D., Big Dumb Face, Eskimo Callboy, Nanowar of Steel, J.B.O., Psychostick, Crotchduster, Ludichrist, Spinal Tap, Okilly Dokilly and Scatterbrain, whose comedic shtick mostly revolves around parodying heavy metal clichés and ironically spoofing the seriousness of many traditional metal bands, while other bands such as Gwar, Lordi and Rosemary's Billygoat utilize outrageous costumes and over-the-top stage shows. The virtual band Dethklok is a death metal spoof featured in the Adult Swim animated TV show Metalocalypse, and their album The Dethalbum debuted at No. 21 on the Billboard Top 200 list.
In the German rock scene, Die Ärzte are known for their often humorous songs and videos that sometimes parody popular rock, punk, metal or pop clichés, and Die Toten Hosen have released several ironic, humorous songs as well. Some famous Neue Deutsche Welle acts, most notably Falco and Trio, were also known for their often humorous, ironic and satirical lyrics.
- V. Bogdanov, C. Woodstra and S. T. Erlewine, All music guide to rock: the definitive guide to rock, pop, and soul (Backbeat Books, 3rd Edition., 2002), pp. 126.
- The 10 Best Novelty Songs of the '50s-ThoughtCo.
- Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits: The Inside Story Behind Every Number. Billboard Books. p. 38. ISBN 0-8230-7677-6.
- Stephenson, John-Paul (10 February 2012). "CD Review: Mitch Benn & The Distractions – Breaking Strings". Giggle Beats. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
- "Comedy rock". Allmusic.
- Ofjord. "The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands > Review" at AllMusic. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
- Caulfield, Keith (23 July 2014). "'Weird Al' Yankovic Gets First No. 1 Album On Billboard 200 with 'Mandatory Fun'". Billboard. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
- "Feeling The Steel Panther: Interview with Michael Starr". Nightlife. The Aquarian Weekly. 4 October 2009. Retrieved 10 October 2009.
- Milne, Gregory (11 July 2013). "Ninja Sex Party: Tales of Strawberries and Cream". Living Myth Magazine. Living Myth Magazine. Archived from the original on 25 May 2016. Retrieved 29 June 2016.
- Comedy Issue: Laugh tracks by Frank Zappa, Ween, They Might Be Giants and more-Creative Loafing
- "Dethalbum Debuts At #21 On Billboard Top 200 Archived 5 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine" 9 October 2007