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Good funny music?


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I'm pretty sure I don't like "funny" scores. I make this blanket statement and I'm making sure I can back it up.

 

When does the music try to be funny? The slide whistle in The Man with the Golden Gun? Jar Jar music? Ewok music? (I feel like Williams gets more "whimsical" than funny.) "Follow Me" from Always? "Indy's Very First Adventure"? Oh! Is March of the Villains funny?

 

I'm writing this because someone was talking about the score for Maverick (the western one) and mentioned that Richard Donner wanted Randy Newman's music to be funnier. I love the score. And the movie is funny. But it's not a funny score. In other movies Newman rides up on that "goofy whimsy" line rather a lot, I suppose.

 

One of the funniest movies ever made is Young Frankenstein. I love the score. The score is not funny.

 

Hmmmm. Clue. I like Clue. The score for Clue is arguably... Funny. Hmmm. This might be a chink in my armor.

 

Ghostbusters? Wow. Where do I put Ghostbusters? The main theme is "Down on their luck sad sacks". Very cute. Funny? I mean it gets used in lots of not-funny ways. (Even more so in Afterlife.) But is it basically funny?

 

Goldeneye! Ladies First isn't just funny. But it's definitely in that area. I've said lots of times that more people would at least not hate that score if it were not for that track. I've learned not to skip it because it develops into something cooler than the initial boopsie bipsie chirps and record scratches.

 

And finally the obligatory Star Trek soundtracks.

 

The Original Series had a non trivial amount of funny music. Mulendore wrote "Play-Off" for the "whoops, did I do that?" moments. Fried wrote Coochy Coo. They're short. Not my go-to Star Trek tracks.

 

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home gets a lot of hate. I think almost entirely for two tracks: Chekov's Run and Hospital Chase. Of the two of them the "funny" one is Hospital Chase. Hmmm. I don't hate it. But it never finds its way onto any Star Trek playlists that I make. (Or mix tapes, back in the day.) But most of the score doesn't even flirt with funny.

 

In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier there's a moment where Kirk almost winks at the camera and says "I miss my old chair." The music does the same. It diminishes an otherwise very heroic cue.

 

What does everyone else think of funny music?

 

(I love funny songs!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Many cues from SpongeBob Squarepants are extremely funny. And when I was a kid I really liked how some classic slapstick cartoons (Tom & Jerry, Looney Tunes, etc) used classical music to enhance the comedy.

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6 minutes ago, Tallguy said:

 

Yup. That right there. I hate that stuff.

 

In that case ...

 

 

Not sure if this is what you mean, but I know it's my favorite track of the album.

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The quintessential inappropriate use of classical music in cartoon has to be Ren & Stimpy.

 

Great show, great music.

 

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I think there's no such thing as "funny" music.

 

Music can bring a lot of emotion like joy, sadness, calm, heroism, passion, anxiety, etc.

 

But if you find a music "funny", it's because of its use in a specific context.

 

By example a dark music used in a certain context can be "fun", and almost every type of music deliberately designed to be "out of place" in a situation can be funny too.

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3 minutes ago, Bespin said:

I think there's no such thing as "funny" music.

 

Music can bring a lot of emotion like joy, sadness, calm, heroism, passion, anxiety, etc.

 

But if you find a music "funny", it's because of its use in a specific context.

 

By example a dark music used in a certain context can be "fun", and almost every type of music used in a dark or intense moment can be fun too, if it appears to be "out of place".

 

Just in the orchestral context, there are a bunch of Leroy Anderson miniatures that are meant to be funny

 

I think of something like "The Typewriter"

 

 

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Is it the music that is funny, the special effect sound, or the juxtaposition of the two?

 

(DON'T QUOTE ME FOR GOD'S SAKE!)

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2 hours ago, AC1 said:

 

In that case ...

 

 

Not sure if this is what you mean, but I know it's my favorite track of the album.

 

That's the kind of "whimsical" thing that Williams does during comedy. E.T. is another good example. I can't think of when JW went for the yucks. I can definitely think of when Goldsmith did. And it's rarely good.

 

Well... I take that back a little. The Cowboy's theme from Innerspace was funny because of the context. Hilarious even. But without the context it's a bad ass Moricone pastiche.

 

1 hour ago, GerateWohl said:

That is probably why I don't like Williams' March of 1941. It's too funny.

 

It definitely has a comedic attitude. It's jaunty to the point of silly. "Hey, we're turning this up to 11!" It's Midway with a strut. It's not inherently funny until you add the cannon fire! For that matter I realize that Rescue of the Princess from Star Wars (Luke and Leia and the chasm) is probably meant to be a little funny.

 

2 hours ago, Edmilson said:

Many cues from SpongeBob Squarepants are extremely funny. And when I was a kid I really liked how some classic slapstick cartoons (Tom & Jerry, Looney Tunes, etc) used classical music to enhance the comedy.

 

I think most of that has trained our brains to what "funny" music is. And outside of Looney Tunes (and such) I don't like it. (The Laurel and Hardy example is perfect.)

 

1 hour ago, Bespin said:

I think there's no such thing as "funny" music.

 

Music can bring a lot of emotion like joy, sadness, calm, heroism, passion, anxiety, etc.

 

But if you find a music "funny", it's because of its use in a specific context.

 

By example a dark music used in a certain context can be "fun", and almost every type of music deliberately designed to be "out of place" in a situation can be funny too.

 

Yes. There's little if any music without lyrics that will make me laugh. Going back to the Donner example with Maverick the music is supplying the emotion while the situation is funny and the actors are being funny.

 

1 hour ago, Bespin said:

(DON'T QUOTE ME FOR GOD'S SAKE!)

 

What?

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1 hour ago, Bespin said:

Is it the music that is funny, the special effect sound, or the juxtaposition of the two?

 

(DON'T QUOTE ME FOR GOD'S SAKE!)

 

1 hour ago, Bespin said:

Is it the music that is funny, the special effect sound, or the juxtaposition of the two?

 

(DON'T QUOTE ME FOR GOD'S SAKE!)

 

1 hour ago, Bespin said:

Is it the music that is funny, the special effect sound, or the juxtaposition of the two?

 

(DON'T QUOTE ME FOR GOD'S SAKE!)

 

1 hour ago, Bespin said:

Is it the music that is funny, the special effect sound, or the juxtaposition of the two?

 

(DON'T QUOTE ME FOR GOD'S SAKE!)

 

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My time has come for I have a contribution I suspect almost none of you have heard!

The American animated show RWBY has a top notch (if low budget) highly melodic score by a team led by a guy named Jeff Williams, and on occasion includes “funny music” - the best chunk of which starts after 3:30 in the track Round One from the third season’s soundtrack. It’s a great piece of “funny” music which transforms into something apprehensive while still being quirky and fun.

 

Alternatively, there’s also most of The Grand Budapest Hotel’s score.

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Ooh, I love this thread. Humour in music is something that interests me greatly. I have the utmost respect for people who can write funny music. Being funny in real life is hard enough, so writing funny music for me is even more impressive. Plus, it lightens your mood!

 

There's plenty of funny music to be found across all genres (musical theatre has tons of it, for instance...) but I'll just keep to the two genres I know most about: film and classical.

 

(Btw, of course people have different tastes in humour. All I can say is what I find funny!)

 

In terms of film, my all-time favourite "funny" score is Ernest Gold's It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. For me, the writing in that score is impeccable. You can tell that Gold and (legendary) orchestrator Edward B. Powell put a ton of work into making sure it sounds just right. Everything flows so well into each other - in fact, so well that the effort put into that score is hard to detect (as it is often with creativity where, paradoxically, the "simpler" an artwork seems, the more effort was put into it). Oh, I could just gush over it for hours! :biglaugh:

 

Another composer that comes to mind is John Powell, who has a self-proclaimed interest in funny music. He showcases it best in his animated scores (Ice Age 2/3/4, Chicken Run, Horton Hears A Who, HTTYD, The Lorax etc.). In fact, he also wrote the score to Rat Race, essentially a remake of It's a Mad Mad World. His sense of humour, though, is quite "raucous", relying a lot on shocking the audience. But he still does it very well, I think (again - sounds simple, but isn't):

 

 

 

Of course, we can't forget the best of cartoon music, e.g. Scott Bradley in Tom & Jerry. Again, sounds so easy!

 

 

In terms of Williams, I'd agree he isn't really someone I'd go to for "funny music". I never understood his obession with false endings! But I think his most successful attempt at humour was the 1941 March, or the "Bug Tunnel/Death Trap" in Temple of Doom.

 

As for classical - I find that there are certain composers who have a great sense of humour, which permeates their entire work in some sense. Some examples:

  • Richard Strauss. You can point to some obvious pieces, like Till Eulenspiegel, Don Quixote, and Symphonia Domestica. But there's a certain "attitude" in his writing which is unique amongst all the major composers. You feel that, almost whatever he writes, he writes it with a wry, cynical smile on his face, as if to say "Wait until they hear this!" He's always got a trick or two up his sleeve, and of course, he's so skilled technically that he always gets away with it.
  • Charles-Valentin Alkan - not known as one of the "greats" but he's somewhat of a legend in the piano community. Think of him as a more cynical Chopin (in fact, he was his next door neighbour). I've aways just found him to have a great sense of humour. One of his more popular pieces is Le Festin d'Esope ("Aesop's Feast")

I'll leave this post with a bonus: Wagner, possibly the unfunniest composer in the history of music, might have invented cartoon music...???? (3:06:46 - 3:09:10)

 

 

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5 hours ago, AC1 said:

 

In that case ...

 

 

Not sure if this is what you mean, but I know it's my favorite track of the album.

Double fault.

 

I'm not blind, and I'm not deaf!

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@Docteur Qui Those are all fantastic points.

 

Airplane is a perfect example! It's like the story about how Leslie Nielsen and Robert Stack "got it" and played their roles straight, no questions asked. But Lloyd Bridges kept trying to add "jokes" because he didn't think he was being very funny. He didn't get it.

 

1941 is John Williams being Leslie Nielsen!

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12 hours ago, artguy360 said:

Pink Panther is a funny theme and score.

 

The score has funny stuff, but I don't think the theme is inherently funny. When growing up, it was played quite widely, e.g. in circus performances. It still pops up occasionally in late night radio jazz programmes. In all those cases, it's always a pinnacle of cool, but not even remotely funny.

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14 hours ago, artguy360 said:

Pink Panther is a funny theme and score.

 

1 hour ago, Marian Schedenig said:

 

The score has funny stuff, but I don't think the theme is inherently funny. When growing up, it was played quite widely, e.g. in circus performances. It still pops up occasionally in late night radio jazz programmes. In all those cases, it's always a pinnacle of cool, but not even remotely funny.

 

Yeah, I don't think the theme is funny. It's slinky, sexy, brash, and bold, but not funny.

 

TBH I haven't heard the score since I was a kid and we always stopped the record after the theme. I remember it sounding very Mancini.

 

A Shot in the Dark isn't funny either. But wow, that's a cool theme. That saxophone (it's a saxophone, right? that goes way lower than it should be able to?) is crazy!

 

Of course these days all of the cool 60's themes turn into Perry the Platypus to me. Seriously I was watching Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and after the twirl at the beginning of the M:I theme I started humming "Do be do be dooo bahhhh!"

 

 

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Not sure if the music itself is funny, but I remember people laughing in the theater when Across the Stars cuts off abruptly when Padme backs away from Anakin's kiss.

 

Music can be used to comic effect, like James Bond in CMIYC and SW in Ferris Bueller, but that is not funny music per se.  

 

The Long Goodbye seems like one big musical joke.  

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22 hours ago, Docteur Qui said:

I love when composers walk the fine line between the serious and the absurd. I think this is displayed perfectly in Elmer Bernstein's Airplane!, a score that is over the top in every sense, but in a way that elevates the material. It's executed with incredible finesse - much of the comedy is deadpan but also very absurd, and the music reflects that with a dramatic sincerity that only ever becomes "silly" in one single moment. In the final scene as the protagonists kiss on the runway the love theme kicks in, building in intensity and shifting key while accompanied by "oohing" choir, eventually reaching a climax as the singers literally shriek and collapse as they hit the highest notes. It's a sublime moment of comedy, and a perfect capstone to a wonderful score:

 

 

I had that cue set as the ringtone for my job.  I always wanted to listen to it to the end so I usually ended up missing the call.

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I think Carl Stalling's music for classic WB cartoons is funny music. I used to own a CD with a bunch of his WB stuff and I loved it.

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12 hours ago, Romão said:

 

In this case, it's certainly goofy (and cool) music, but since I haven't seen the film, I've never been sure if it's supposed to be goofy or cool (or both).

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I am going to vote for HGW's The Penguin March; that is the second track on the soundtrack album for DisneyNature Penguins documentary. No surprises there, I guess, because the way penguins "walk" also always cracks me up!

 

Pretty sure Chicken Run mustn't have been too far away from from the composer's mind at the time of writing this piece - which is another bonus!

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A few John Williams cues: "March Of The Villains" from Superman: The Movie;  "No Ticket" from The Last Crusade; "Gilderoy Lockhart" from The Chamber Of Secrets; "The Adventures Of Mutt" from Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.

 

Bernard Herrmann's score from The Trouble With Harry.

 

Leroy Anderson's The Typewriter.

 

Danny Elfman's "Waltz To The Death" from Batman; "The Breakfast Machine" from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.

 

Much of Queen's music for Flash Gordon contributes to the 'camp' sensibility that the film strives for - especially Brian May's electric guitar rendition of the "Wedding March".

 

This doesn't quite qualify as 'funny' music, but Leonard Bernstein's "Cha-Cha" from West Side Story has a great playful feel.

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I can't deny that when you add kazoos that you're crossing the line into funny. Chicken Run is the exception that proves my rule. 

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There's some interesting material Shirley Walker wrote for both the Trickster and Joker, though I don't know how well it would work as funny not knowing the context. And there's also the comedy is subjective problem.

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I'm starting to realize I have a line between "playful" and "silly" or "stupid".

 

On 17/07/2022 at 10:42 PM, artguy360 said:

The Norwegian Ridgeback cue by JW for HP1 strikes me as funny music or music with a sense of humor.

 

 

 

 

Yeah, that's JW doing his "doop be doop be doop" Jar Jar / E.T. / Ewok thing.

 

On 17/07/2022 at 10:45 PM, bruce marshall said:

I own two comedy scores:

ED WOOD

AUSTIN POWERS

 

good stuff!

 

@bruce marshall is Ed Wood "funny"? I might have to go listen. I haven't seen the film in years.

 

21 hours ago, Archive Collection said:

A few John Williams cues: "March Of The Villains" from Superman: The Movie;  "No Ticket" from The Last Crusade; "Gilderoy Lockhart" from The Chamber Of Secrets; "The Adventures Of Mutt" from Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.

 

Bernard Herrmann's score from The Trouble With Harry.

 

Leroy Anderson's The Typewriter.

 

Danny Elfman's "Waltz To The Death" from Batman; "The Breakfast Machine" from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.

 

Much of Queen's music for Flash Gordon contributes to the 'camp' sensibility that the film strives for - especially Brian May's electric guitar rendition of the "Wedding March".

 

This doesn't quite qualify as 'funny' music, but Leonard Bernstein's "Cha-Cha" from West Side Story has a great playful feel.

 

No Ticket is like Ewok music. I guess it's funny. I don't know if March of the Villains ever gets "funny". I know a lot of people think it's stupid. I'm amazed at how sinister and malevolent it actually is. There's a straight line (to me) between MotV and The Imperial March.

 

Waltz to the Death, yeah. Shirley Walked gets into this groove a lot too. "Ohhhh silly but it's insane so it's disturbing."

 

I will say hard no on Flash Gordon. Campy and over the top maybe, but not funny.

 

On 15/07/2022 at 5:29 PM, Corellian2019 said:

 

 

@Corellian2019 The Informant just barely tips the to side of being OK for me. Maybe.

 

On 15/07/2022 at 6:02 PM, Romão said:

 

 

@Romão Heartbeeps. Hmmm. It's got so much... Damn, what's another word for heart? Emotion? It's so bittersweet. I'm sure the synth choices were meant to be a little funny. But I also just think it's good.

 

8 hours ago, Drawgoon said:

Not sure if this had been brought up elsewhere at the time, but I think Marc Shaiman, in particular "performance" of his, deserves a place in this thread too. Also a nice read.

 

https://www.marcshaiman.com/blog/2019/2/17/icon-awards-performance

 

That's a song. I love funny songs. "Hanzy"?

 

7 hours ago, Cerebral Cortex said:

 

 

 

 

@Cerebral Cortex Gremlins might just be so much a part of my DNA at this point that I no longer recognize it as funny. It's just awesome. (The movie is hilarious.)

 

Man, that Inspector Clouseau theme lands right on the line. I'm pretty sure I don't like it.

 

City Slickers. Well written but yeah, funny music.

 

There is also music that isn't funny at all (Lawrence of Arabia) that can still be played for a (poorly considered) laugh (Moonraker).

 

I'm sure this is "funny music" but I LOVE it!

 

 

Thank you all so much for all of the fuel for the fire.

 

Oh. And I might as well end with this. Because I can't post Building the Crate enough.

 

 

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33 minutes ago, Tallguy said:

@bruce marshall is Ed Wood "funny"? I might have to go listen. I haven't seen the film in years.

 

It's been years, but I don't really think it is. Mocking, perhaps, but not funny.

 

33 minutes ago, Tallguy said:

@Cerebral Cortex Gremlins might just be so much a part of my DNA at this point that I no longer recognize it as funny. It's

 

I don't think Gremlin Credits is funny. In comparison to the goofy version of the rag from the first film, I'd rather describe it as "cool". However, this is very obviously "funny music":

 

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ED WOOD ( and AUSTIN POWERS) are scores that PARODY a certain era/style/composer.

In EW, Shore is doing a take- off of horror scores of the Fifties - that often featured a Theremin.

If you don't know what he is satirising, you probably won't get the joke.

Likewise, AP is satirising or homagging spy scores of the Sixties- John Barry Bond scores in particular.

The composer is intentionally trying to be " funny" .

.

 

Music that makes me laugh:

 

Ennio Morricone in.FAFDM and, especially GBU.

 

There are moments where EM punctuates a scene with just a ' twangg' on a guitar that are hilarious.

In GBU he often features a chorus going " ah-ee-ah-ee-ah".

Check out the scene where Blondie escaped being hanged by Tuco😅.

 

Hope this post has been helpful.

😎

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@bruce marshall that kind of goes to the distinction I've been trying to make. Airplane, Young Frankenstein, 1941, John Powell's Bolt are all good examples of music that you'll laugh at because it's used in absurd situations and plays off of and against many musical tropes, but it isn't "funny" music.

 

 

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It's pretty subjective , I guess.

I listed two kinds of " funny":

parody

original scoring that makes a scene funny or funnier.

I think both fall under " funny music".

 

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On 14/07/2022 at 9:05 PM, Loert said:

(...) Wagner, possibly the unfunniest composer in the history of music, (...)

 

"Siegfried" would like a word with you ;)

(Great example from Meistersinger, though)

 

There's a nice talk by Leonard Bernstein on the Topic:

 

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I'm looking forward to watching this.

 

OK, anyone complaining about Bradley Cooper playing Bernstein needs to sit down now. I'm almost expecting him to start doing Rocket from Guardians.

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