There’s a scene in Dave Chappelle’s Block Party where the comedian summarizes comedy and music’s long-standing marriage by positing, “Every comic wants to be a musician. Every musician thinks they’re funny. It’s a very strange relationship that we have.” It’s a fitting appraisal, especially when considering the source, whose intertwining of the two is unrivaled by his contemporaries.
The following list, which features genres ranging from indie rock to commercial hip hop to dancehall, supports Chappelle’s theorem that musicians think they’re funny, and, in the process, seek to prove that occasionally they are.
You — TV On The Radio
According to director Barney Clay in this interview with Pitchfork, the ‘diner’ scene was largely improvised: “I gave them a guideline but basically just let them go, and each one went off for ages. There’s at least another five minutes of hilarity that we cut, like one scene where this girl comes in, spots the band, and is like, “Hey, you’re the Roots!”
Pon De Floor — Major Lazer
Eric Wareheim’s second video for Major Lazer, the other being the absurdly hilarious ‘Keep it Going Louder, ‘Pon De Floor’s choreography was heavily influenced by elements of ‘daggering’, a dance with origins in the Caribbean. One guess as to what the ‘dagger’ in ‘daggering’ is.
Can’t Tell Me Nothing — Kanye West
The story behind the video goes something like this: Kanye, having been made aware of Galifianakis by a mutual friend, approached the comedian about doing a video, who agreed on the condition that he could shoot it on his farm in North Carolina. According to Galifianakis, “There was no audition. I did whatever I wanted. He told me to just do what I thought would work.”
10am Automatic — The Black Keys
The David Cross-helmed video commences with the Rabbi host of a faux Ohio Public Access program (played by Delocated’s Jon Glaser) reading from Deuteronomy 5:15, followed immediately by a brilliantly deadpanned, “and now, here’s The Black Keys.” The Ohio duo then proceeds to play their signature two-man minimalist blues for Glaser and a crowd of elderly people.
Sabotage - The Beastie Boys
How’s this for karma: 15 years after Beastie Boy’s MCA interrupted Michael Stipe’s acceptance speech to complain about losing to R.E.M’s “Everybody Hurts”, “Sabotage” received the 2009 MTV Video Music Award for “Best Video (That Should Have Won A Moonman).” You probably remember the 2009 VMAs as the “Interrupting Kanye” show.
Rad Anthem — Rad Omen
Colonel Sanders, the Burger King, Ronald McDonald, and the Jack in the Box guy engage in a night of debauchery that begins with the consumption of large amounts of narcotics, segues into promiscuous sex in semi-public, and ends with the guys stumbling into an area diner and messily scarfing down burgers. Somewhere in the middle of this they’re joined by amateur stripper Wendy, played by Nick Swardson.
The Youth — MGMT
Like Jonze, Wareheim’s proliferation of incredible videos means some deserving videos — including Phantom Planet’s “Dropped” and “She’s Got Me Dancing” by Tommy Sparks — couldn’t make the cut. So it goes. With ‘The Youth’, Wareheim showcases one of his (and Heidecker’s) most underrated comedic qualities: Their surrealist sensibility is just as effective with kids as it is with adults.
Praise You — Fatboy Slim
Though the Torrance Community Dance Group and their leader Richard Koufey (played by director Spike Jonze) are fictional, the footage of their impromptu guerilla dance performance in front of a Westwood, California movie theater, including the perplexed on-lookers and theater employee who turned the stereo off, is completely real.
Wouldn’t Get Far — The Game
Like Dre. Dre’s “Fuck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebrating)”, “Wouldn’t Get Far” exposes rap’s seedy underbelly. Though the song’s main lyrical targets are video vixens (two of whom actually appear in the video), the music video itself is a self-referential parody of the world of hip hop videos and the directors, women, and MCs who inhabit it.
Learn to Fly — Foo Fighters
3 years after the Mentos-spoofing “Big Me,” “Learn To Fly” finds The Foo Fighters channeling their inner Kids In The Hall, with lead singer Dave Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins each playing multiple cross-dressed characters. The video opens with Jack Black and Kyle Gass getting into silent film shenanigans set to a muzak rendition of “Everlong.” Grohl would later repay the favor by playing “The Demon” in Tenacious D’s video for “Tribute.”
Sensual Seduction — Snoop Dogg
Steady As She Goes — The Raconteurs
Blame It — Jamie Foxx
In Bloom — Nirvana
The Denial Twist — The White Stripes
Conor McKeon is a writer living in Brooklyn… New York.