There’s an old saying that every comedian wants to be a rock star, and every rock star wants to be a comedian. Comedy and music have always had a close relationship, from shared work hours to the desire to entertain. While comedians from George Carlin to Hannibal Buress have great bits about bands or musicians, it works the other way around too just as much. With live events like SideOneDummy Storytellers and The God Damn Comedy Jam permeating the comedy landscape, we’re going to showcase the other side. So here are 5 songs inspired by comedians.
Song: Wale “The Intro About Nothing” / An Album About Nothing / A Mixtape About Nothing
Subject Comedian: Jerry Seinfeld
This isn’t just a song influenced by a comedian but an entire album that actually features the comedian.
Wale’s Album about Nothing is a concept record inspired by the sitcom Seinfeld and Wale created the album with the assistance of Jerry Seinfeld himself. Seinfeld narrated the album acting as the the rapper’s conscious throughout. Wale first released A Mixtape About Nothing, the comedian was familiar with Wale as his wife was a fan and played his music. The two met at a show and the idea for An Album About Nothing was born.
Song: R.E.M “Man On The Moon”
Subject Comedian: Andy Kaufman
R.E.M frontman penned the lyrics to this song in tribute to Kaufman’s life as the song makes numerous references to the comedians career, including his iconic Elvis impersonation, wrestling, and the film My Breakfast with Blassie. The chorus of the song breaks into references of the moon landing conspiracy theories which mimic the conspiracy theories about Kaufman’s death as many believe they were both faked. The song also served as title inspiration to Miloš Forman’s film based on Kaufman’s life starring Jim Carey as Kaufman. Stipe would later revisit Kaufman and add referenced to Laurel & Hardy in the song, “The Great Beyond” which was also in the Forman / Kaufman movie.
Example Lyrics: “Andy Kaufman in the wrestling match. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” / “Now Andy, did you hear about this one? Tell me are you locked in the punch? Now Andy, are you goofing on Elvis, ‘Hey Baby. Are we losing touch?'”
Song: Billy Joel “My Life”
Subject Comedian: Richard Lewis
Billy Joel and Richard Lewis are from the same stomping grounds in New York. Many believe the song’s opening lyric is about the comedian taking up shop in the West to pursue his dream. It’s also been said that Lewis later confirmed with Joel that the song was not about him but rather in general about how many leave good paying jobs to chase showbiz dreams. Additionally, this song served as the theme song for the popular 80’s sitcom Bosom Buddies which starred a young Tom Hanks.
Example Lyrics: “Got a call from an old friend we’d used to be real close. Said he couldn’t go on the American way. Closed the shop, sold the house, bought a ticket to the West Coast. Now he gives them a stand-up routine in L.A.”
Song: Steely Dan “Show Biz Kids”
Subject Comedian: Lenny Bruce
Steely Dany is a band that named themselves after the dildo from the William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch so it’s safe to assume they have a sense of humor. In their song “Show Biz Kids” the repeated refrain sung by the backing singers says, “You go to Lost Wages, Lost Wages.” A line inspired by a joke from Lenny Bruce, where the comedian often referred to Las Vegas as “Lost Wages.” Steely Dan weren’t the only creative types influenced by Lenny Bruce as Frank Zappa and Steven Spielberg would sing his praises and Stanley Kubrick even tried to recruit him for the movie Dr. Strangelove.
Song: Tool “Third Eye” and “Aenema”
Subject Comedian: Bill Hicks
Bill Hicks had a huge influence on two major 90’s bands – Radiohead (they thanked him in the credits of The Bends) and Tool. The latter of whom made several references to Hicks in song. “Third Eye,” from their album Aenema was a flat out dedication to Hicks, starting with spoken word excerpts from the late comedian. The song’s title track, “Aenima” makes references to Hicks’ bit, “The Arizona Bay” where he talks about California falling into the ocean to create beachfront property in Arizona.
To many, Hicks was beyond just a comedian, he was a philosopher, truthsayer and leader of a counterculture. In his act, Hicks often referenced to the psychedelic idea of a third eye. Stating if we had a third eye to see the beauty of the universe, watching television was like spraying black paint over it. Hicks would encourage people to “squeegee their third eye.” Tool confirmed they almost toured with Hicks prior to his death. Additionally, the album featured Hicks in the artwork with an image of Hicks with the tagline, “Another dead hero.”
Example Lyrics: “Prying open my third eye. So good to see you once again. I thought that you were hiding. And you thought that I had run away. Chasing the tail of dogma. I opened my eye and there we were.”
“Here in this hopeless f*cking hole we call L.A. The only way to fix it is to flush it all away. Any f*cking time, any f*cking day. Learn to swim, I’ll see you down in Arizona bay.”