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Ask your average comedian to break down their favorite movie and they can go on for hours — just search “movies” in your favorite podcast app for proof. Music, on the other hand, is less accessible. It’s harder to communicate exactly why a song might evoke certain feelings, good or bad. Enter Punch Up the Jam, the podcast where musically inclined comedians Miel Bredouw and Demi Adejuyigbe take apart a well-known song, then put it back together as a hilarious parody Punch Up™. (For a list of the Top Five Unpunchable Punch Ups, skip to the end of this piece). The show’s 64 episodes and counting are much more than some clever cut-and-replace lyrics, though. Punch Up the Jam is VH1’s Pop-Up Video for the think-piece era. At its best, an episode of PUTJ can leave listeners thinking about a song they’ve heard hundreds of times in a whole new light.
Current The Late Late Show With James Corden writer and PUTJ co-host Demi Adejuyigbe — or as Vulture readers might know him, the 21st September guy — has been called “perhaps the ‘Weird Al’ of his generation” by Pitchfork. His incredible fake end-credits songs (often in the form of Will Smith raps) always make the internet rounds. Co-host Miel Bredouw is another musical talent with a popular YouTube channel who has made videos with places like Funny or Die, Super Deluxe, and BuzzFeed. Most recently, her copyright dispute with Barstool Sports garnered the support of a coalition of creators not seen since the #FuckFuckJerry movement. Bredouw and Adejuyigbe put more work into each episode than some podcast hosts do in a season, pulling out individual tracks, researching the artist, and creating the Punch Up from scratch.
Launched in December 2017, PUTJ has featured hits from all eras and genres, from Korn’s “Freak on a Leash” to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Playing 15-second song chunks at a time doesn’t create the most natural flow, but Bredouw and Adejuyigbe’s oftentimes manic energy keeps PUTJ afloat no matter the vibe or length of the song. Each highlighted verse, drum layer, or isolated vocal is as funny as the previous one. No episode exemplifies this better than the August 2018 review of “L.A. Woman,” the Doors’ sleepy trip to, well, somewhere; it’s entirely unclear if even Jim Morrison knew what he was singing about. At just under eight minutes, “L.A. Woman” is the longest jam to date, making it a nightmare for Adejuyigbe to chop up into digestible clips for the show. Here to help fill that extra time is the Mark Ronson of podcasting, Paul F. Tompkins, because that guy shows up everywhere in a suit jacket and makes everything better.
Before they dive into a band whose target audience is what Bredouw describes as the “CSI generation,” Adejuyigbe reveals how PFT contributed to the origin of Adejuyigbe’s other popular podcast, Gilmore Guys (now Maisel Goys). Then, it’s time to set the stage. Who are the Doors? When was this song released? Was that before or after the time Jim Morrison was arrested for showing his penis to a concert audience because he “just wanted to see what it would look like in the light?” We also hear how the song and artists make everyone feel, and this episode draws a rare consensus: not good! For Tompkins, the Doors are “Sunday afternoon and there’s only football on TV, and you have homework that you’re supposed to have done that you haven’t done and you’re not gonna do until the very last minute.”
Pulling out the layers of any PUTJ jam’s mix never feels tedious; more often than not, they’re ear-opening — like the bongos hidden underneath most of “L.A. Woman” that sound like a Donkey Kong game, or the bubbly piano track that evokes a Jamba Juice. Once you hear these hidden gems, you can’t un-hear them. A debate quickly breaks out around the very first line of “L.A. Woman.” Do you hear “Well, I just got into town about an hour ago” or “Well, I did a little down about an hour ago”? Bredouw leads the first of many Jim Morrison impression-offs to try to figure it out. Did he actually “giggle gaggle down about an hour ago”? Somehow the isolated vocals are harder to understand than the mix, which is great for comedy and bad for people with ears. Yanny and Laurel aside, the blurry lyric establishes early on that Jim Morrison had the elocution of a drunk baby — or Adam Sandler, as Adejuyigbe later proves.
The lyric “Where the little girls in their Hollywood bungalows” opens the door for another staple of PUTJ: taking a 2019 hammer to the song’s 1971 context. As PFT points out, the bizarre infantilization of women doesn’t only lurk over this song; it pervaded rock music for decades. (It’s worth revisiting Will Ferrell as Chucky Lee Byrd to grasp this gross phenomenon.) The earlier revelation that the Doors and Elvis Presley share a bassist makes a lot more sense now. If this is too unpleasant, don’t worry — Morrison only calls women “little” five more times in this song. We’re starting to get a sense that he’s not a great guy.
Even on a 102-minute podcast breaking down a 7:49-minute song (that’s over 12 minutes of riffing per minute of song!), PUTJ never shies away from joke detours. The trio’s distaste for this song shines through while reading Morrison’s ambiguous songwriting (i.e., the “City of Lights” is Paris, not L.A., dude). “This is very ‘New York is the fifth character’ kind of bullshit that I do not like,” PFT explains, prompting Bredouw to reveal that she identifies as the character of New York whenever she takes a Sex and the City quiz. Similarly, an ancillary riff on hats shortly after leads to a call for the invention of baseball caps with 360-degree brims and four separate ponytail holes. Several fans posted original artwork of such a product on Twitter, which is a hallmark of any great podcast.
The extended bridge is a black hole for listeners, but these three are still going strong by the time we reach the lyric made famous by Austin Powers, “Mr. Mojo Risin’.” For some undetermined reason, “Mr. Mojo Risin’” is an anagram for Jim Morrison, a piece of trivia that coaxes a mighty groan from PFT. Adejuyigbe offers up a handful of equally stupid alts, including Mr. Mo Join IRS, I’m Jon Morris, and Two Jr. Mormons. The song winds down with a series of grunts that Bredouw describes as “the sound of a man having a psychotic break on tape.” Always prepared, Adejuyigbe isolates the vocals to which noises sound like a serial killer murdering someone and which sound like the person being murdered. Several false endings have all three begging for the sweet release of a fade-out. “It’s like in an improv scene where someone doesn’t get the scene to end and they try to do another beat and they’re like, ‘No, no, no, we already hit it,’” Bredouw says, as the song mercifully comes to an end.
Finally, we hear what each episode builds to: the titular Punch Up. Sometimes Adejuyigbe does the Punch Up, sometimes Bredouw does, and sometimes they work on it together, but they both almost always succeed in building a story within the song, which sets them apart from any old Sketch 101 song parody. “You’re not really talking about the L.A. I know, so I made it more specific to Los Angeles,” Adejuyigbe establishes. “L.A. Livin” is the grounded tour of life in Los Angeles that “L.A. Woman” could never be. With lyrics like “L.A. livin Sunday afternoon / Standing in the line at a greasy spoon / Lady with a giant Buddhist tree tattoo / Went to do cocaine / In the bathroom / In the bathroom, yeah / Tried to play it cool / But everyone knew,” the song slaps way harder than the original. And of course, the refrain of “Two Jr. Mormons” ties the whole episode together like a well-constructed album.
Don’t sleep on the show’s final segment, Unpunchable Jams, where each person presents one song so undeniably good, it cannot be punched up. In a total coincidence, they present David Bowie’s “Five Years,” David Bowie’s “Queen Bitch,” and “Wake Up in L.A.” by Human Natural. Bredouw and Adejuyigbe have impeccable taste, so you’ll want to check out all of the Unpunchable Jams in this killer playlist.
If Mr. Mojo Risin’ isn’t your thing, PUTJ has over 60 episodes’ worth of songs to check out, along with Patreon bonus episodes. Whether you’re a die-hard music fan or a comedy nerd trying to scratch your Weird Al itch, PUTJ has something for you. Bredouw and Adejuyigbe’s energy and commitment to songs that are good, bad, and by the Doors make Punch Up the Jam one of the most consistently funny listens in the game right now.
Top Five Unpunchable Punch Ups
5. “Mambo No. 5 (Live)” (episode 15): Technically Mambo No. 1 through Mambo No. 4, these range from Lou Bega loving the trumpet too much to an existential crisis. “One, two, three, four, five / Do you ever think about how you’re gonna die?”
4. “You Oughta Know” (episode 52): An exploration of the most infamous line in Alanis Morissette’s original hit. “And more specifically while you were watching Rudy / Would she go down on you in a theater?”
3. “It Wasn’t Me” (episode 26): What if Shaggy killed a dude? “Honey came in and she caught me red-handed / Trying to kill a random man / Picture me in a blood soaked T-shirt / Murder weapon in my hand.”
2. “Hey Ma” (episode 22): An honest conversation between a mother and son. “Hey Ma / Hey hun / What’s up? / Not much / Okay. Can I call ya back tonight.”
1. “Kokomo” (episode 40): One night in a Kokomo-like paradise, early on in a relationship, ending with “After having sex, we relax and check our texts / One of us starts laughing and then we gotta show the other whatever’s on our phone.” Guest Jon Gabrus called this “the most relatable song I’ve ever heard.”
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