This author has been an educator, conductor, and trombonist for the past 40 years. His experience qualifies him as an expert in this field.
Comedy and Music - A Hilarious Duet - Comedy Music Background
Comedy Music Background - One of the most delightful and sheer amazing forms of entertainment is that of the comedic musician. I'm not talking about the singer/songwriter that writes or performs a few choruses of a funny song. Those are a dime a dozen. But, those phenomenal musicians that entertain us through their individual and unique comedic style. These are special entertainers.
There is not a person on the face of the earth that does not appreciate or like a talented comedian. We all love to laugh! But, when you put comedy and music together (like mixing your peanut butter with my chocolate) you have a “Hilarious Duet! A combination that can't be beat. This article will feature the artistic genius of three of these superstars: Victor Borge, Spike Jones, Peter Schickele
Victor Borge, born January 3, 1909 was an American / Danish comedian, conductor and pianist. Victor began piano lessons at age 2 and soon to be recognized as an apparent prodigy. He gave his first recital at age 8. In 1918 was awarded a full scholarship at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. He played his first classical concert in 1926 . A few years later he started his now famous comedy routine with great blends of piano music and comedy.
Mr. Borge achieved great popularity in television and radio in the United States and Europe. He was known as "The Clown Prince of Denmark" sometimes known as the Unmelancholy Dane. And also referred to as the “Great Dane”. Victor could have set his career out as just a concert pianist and done great but he had such a comedic mind that the mix of his style of comedy and musical virtuosity was much more appealing to him.
When Victor came to the United States he did not speak English, but learned it quickly as he continued to perfect his unique style of entertainment to record crowds. Audiences loved his physical humor as many of his routines called for him to fall off of his piano bench and on to the floor. Many of his routines called for him use the piano as his comedic prop. He did this like one else. After a long and successful career, Victor Borge passed away in December, 2000. Along with countless others, I believe there will never be another Victor Borge.
Born Lindsley Armstrong in 1911 later to be known as "Spike" Jones, was an American musician and bandleader specializing in satirical arrangements of popular and classical music. At age 11 he got his first set of drums and as a teenager he played in bands that he formed himself. The first band was called Spike Jones and his five tacks.
A restaurant chef taught him how to use pots and pans, forks, knives, and spoons as musical instruments. This would serve to be a great influence in his career as he experimented and practiced not only on his drum set but on unusual objects that produced musical pitches. And it was better if there were not in “tune”.
Jones played in a number of theater pit orchestras but got bored with the same music night after night. He found other musicians that had the same frustrations and began playing parodies of standard songs for their own entertainment. They were starting to come up with some great ideas and began recording some of the weekly sessions and one of the recordings got into the hands of an executive from RCA records which ultimately got them a recording contract.
Thus, we had Spike Jones and His City Slickers.
Their first recording was called Der Fuehrers Face. It was a hilarious song ridiculing Adolf Hitler that followed every use of the word “Heil” with a distinct raspberry sound, as in the repeated phrase “Heil” (raspberry sound), “Heil” (raspberry sound), “Heil” (raspberry sound), right in Der Fueher’s Face!”
From his successful recordings playing radio and then television as he built an enormous following. Some of his more satirical songs include: “Cocktails for Two“, “Hawaiian War Chant”, Chloe, “Holiday for Strings” and “You Always Hurt The One You Love”.
Spike Jones was a master at taking a well known piece of Classical Music and putting his special bizarre but hilarious spin on it. The members of his band we’re truly professional musicians and that’s the only way you could pull these pieces off. Some of these were pulling Rossini‘s William Tell Overture, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, Liszt’s Liebestraume. These and many many more were truly entertaining hilarious and quite musical. What made Spike Jones tower above the rest was the crazy antics, unusual props, and just say it again the highest caliber of musician played in his band. Quite like the style of early Vaudeville, things happen so quickly on stage during these pieces that you had to watch very carefully so you wouldn’t miss what might be very funny or musically terrific.
Peter Schikele and P.D.Q. Bach
Peter Schickele, Born July 17, 1935 is an American composer, music educator and parodist best known for his comedy and music featuring a fictional character known as P.D.Q. Bach.
Schickele was born in Ames, Iowa to immigrant parents. Peter studied composition with Sigvald Thompson. He attended Swarthmore College in North Dakota, graduating in 1957 with a degree in music. He later attended and graduated from Juilliard School of Music with a degree in music composition.
During his early years, (1960’s) Peter wrote for a number of folk musicians, most notable was Joan Baez. While perusing his degrees, he became an accomplished bassoonist which would serve him well later in his career.
The humor of Peter Schickele was amazingly clever and creative with much influence by the bizarre antics of Spike Jones of an earlier generation. Comedy and Music was definitely in his blood.
In the early 1970s, Peter teamed up with conductor Jorge Mester to present a humorous concert, which later became an annual event at Juilliard. These concerts became so popular that the P. D. Q. Bach career was now a huge success. Schickele was eventually contracted to move these performances to the Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center.
P. D. Q. Bach
Peter Schickele developed a complicated and diverse “parodic persona” through his studies of his fictional “youngest and oddest of the 20 – odd children of Johann Sebastian Bach - P. D. Q. Bach.”
Among the fictional composers “forgotten“ repertory that Schickele supposedly uncovered are such ridiculous works as: Canine Cantata, Good King Kong Looked Out, The Art of The Ground Round.
Understand, the making up of this fictitious name for one of Johann Sebastian Bach‘s children, Schikele is re-creating an image from the Baroque period of music history. Therefore, you might need to know a little bit about that period in music history to fully appreciate his creative genius. If they are sung – listen to the words! Unbelievable! If they are just instrumental pieces – Incredible!
Another part of the Schikele genius are the inventions of several instruments that he used as part of different compositions such as - Concerto for the Left-handed Sewer Flute. Or the instrument he invented called the “Dill Piccolo” for playing sour notes! When watching a performance or listening to the music of P.D.Q. Bach, you can see the connections and great influence that Spike Jones had on him. In an interview with Mr. Schickele later in his career he does talk about how he admired and was a big fan of Spike Jones.
If you like comedy and music, give yourself a great treat and watch the videos I have provided. Please feel free to send me a comment about this article.
© 2017 Reginald Thomas