Music News

Steve Martin and the Other Best and Worst Comedians Turned Musicians

Last year, Steve Martin released a 15-song banjo album, The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo. Sounds funny, right?

Well, with winsome songs such as "Pretty Flowers" and guest spots from Vince Gill and Dolly Parton, it was actually a surprisingly earnest affair that ended up picking up all kinds of acclaim and a Grammy award for Best Bluegrass Album.

With Martin touring the arts center circuit in support of the record, there's a reasonable argument that The Jerk star may be the most successful comedian to venture into music — for whatever that may be worth.

Here's a look at the often unintentionally hilarious history of comedians making music.

Adam Sandler: Sure, the Thanksgiving- and Hanukkah-themed songs are funny. But when Sandler gets sincere, it's a little uncomfortable. Take his surprisingly serious cover of "Real Love" from the surprisingly serious film Funny People. A decent effort, sure, but the sensitive vulnerability is disarming when coming from a man who once uttered, on film, "of course I peed my pants."

Jimmy Fallon: Firmly in the Sandler tradition, the affable current Late Night host made a name for himself singing humorous songs on Saturday Night Live. Which made it all the more baffling when he released comedy album The Bathroom Wall in 2002, featuring "Idiot Boyfriend," a supposedly comedic lead single with no jokes in sight. The video got some airplay on MTV anyway.

Tom Green: Speaking of videos, the clip for "Lonely Swedish (The Bum Bum Song)" may be one of the most bizarre things to ever become popular. "I like to put my bum on things," he sings, summing up the entire three-minute track. The song's as inexplicable as Green's meteoric rise to fame at the time, and just as refreshingly odd.

Jamie Foxx: With a couple of notable collaborations with Kanye West, three studio albums, and a huge hit like "Blame It," Foxx is probably the most commercially successful comedian to release music. But with all that serious acting credibility in recent years, who thinks of him as a comedian these days? It's been a long time since Booty Call.

Jack Black: Tenacious D may be the quintessential music project from a comedian — retaining the comic's style yet standing as competent songwriting on its own — but may lose points simply because the band existed years before Black became famous as an actor, instead of being a vanity project.

Eddie Murphy: Speaking of vanity projects. Four words: Party. All. The. Time.

Neil Hamburger: In essentially the Bizarro World version of Martin's album, cult favorite anti-humor stand-up Hamburger, whose punch lines frequently involve wishing terminal diseases on public figures, released a relatively straight album of country tunes in 2008, Sings Country Winners. Shockingly, numbers like "Please Ask That Clown to Stop Crying" were snubbed by the Grammys.

The Lonely Island: The three dudes behind mega-popular SNL bits "Dick in a Box" and "Jizz in My Pants" released an album full of music in 2009. As those titles show, the humor might not be for everyone — but they got Norah Jones to sing about Chex Mix, which has to count for something.

Donald Glover: The Community co-star is a pretty talented rapper, under the alias "Childish Gambino." It's quasi-nerdcore, but with the tacit understanding that he's a cool guy who happens to like geeky things, unlike the MC Chrises of the world who are, y'know, geeks.

Charlyne Yi: She didn't do much in Knocked Up other than giggle a lot, but Yi currently fronts the amusingly named but otherwise rather straightforward trio Old Lumps.

The Dan Band: Do you like curse words inserted into '80s pop songs? Well, Dan Finnerty's band is for you!

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Albert Ching
Contact: Albert Ching