Musical Comedy: Divine

IADOne of the last posts I wrote before I took my hiatus from blogging was in response to a video of John Waters’ (I was especially intrigued by his description of the film “The Girl Can’t Help It” – as well as its effects on music and popular culture). I decided to continue with my quest to watch as many documentaries as possible about Waters and company. I had been wanting to see the documentary “I am Divine” since I started seeing trailers for it (it came out in 2013, but I was right in the thick of dissertation work at that point). I finally got a chance to see it and wanted to share my thoughts about it.

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Musical Comedy: John Waters

JWThis post is intended as supplemental material for the course “Sounds of Laughter: Musical Comedy in the United States”

For Week 7 of the course, I focused on the concept of camp and showed a documentary clip about Little Richard. However, that clip only mentions Richard’s style and sexuality in passing. After some searching for supplemental material, I was delighted to find a clip of John Waters (who I consider to be the epitome of camp) discussing the influence of the film “The Girl Can’t Help It” (1956), featuring Little Richard and other early rock and roll musicians. His entire analysis is amazing (I highly recommend watching the whole thing), but there are several excerpts pertaining specifically to camp and musical comedy.

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Musical Comedy: Paul F. Tompkins

pftThis post is intended as supplemental material for the course “Sounds of Laughter: Musical Comedy in the United States”

For the majority of these posts, I have focused primarily on musicians who use comedic elements in their work. However, Paul F. Tompkins is a comedian who incorporates musical elements into his work. His routine “Jazz Is Lousy” presents a comedic take on the ways in which jazz musicians come across as inaccessible to everyday folks. I’ve watched the clip with other jazz musicians and they tend to find several parts of the bit very funny (for all our faults, we are a self-deprecating bunch).

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Musical Comedy: Charlie Chaplin

ccmThis post is intended as supplemental material for the course “Sounds of Laughter: Musical Comedy in the United States”

One of my students expressed an interest in writing about Charlie Chaplin, and asked if he would count as an example of “musical comedy.” I said yes, because his movies make use of physical and musical comedy (as well as the interactions between the two). However, I didn’t realize just how right I was. I found out that Chaplin was a prolific composer and music aficionado. Here are two resources from his official website:

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Musical Comedy: Novelty Update in the 1980s

bizThis post is intended as supplemental material for the course “Sounds of Laughter: Musical Comedy in the United States”

These excerpts are from the section “Novelty Update” in Ellis (2008). This is from the chapter focusing on the 1980s, but covers artists from various time periods.

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Musical Comedy: Novelty Humor in the 1950s

tlThis post is intended as supplemental material for the course “Sounds of Laughter: Musical Comedy in the United States”

Ellis summarizes musical novelty humor in the late 1950s (note: his focus on rock & roll makes him, I think, a bit dismissive of less serious forms of 50s music):

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