Prom 40 celebrates not only the power of music but the power of laughter. Live from the Royal Albert Hall, Tim Minchin hosts the first ever Comedy Prom (Saturday 13 August, 7:30pm, BBC Radio 3). To mark the occasion, we nominate ten of the best musical comedians of recent times:
1. Bill Bailey
The wild-haired, West Country wizard-a-like is classically trained but it’s his talent for musical parodies that delights his audiences, whether he’s turning the BBC news theme into a rave or poking fun at Chris de Burgh. Here he pays tribute to Kraftwerk with a uniquely German version of the hokey cokey.
2. Victor Borge
The Danish piano prodigy began his career playing in classical concerts but was soon combining musical performances with humour, including physical comedy and audience interaction. In this clip, he and his fellow pianist come up with ingenious ways of playing a duet…
3. Billy Connolly
Twice voted into pole position on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups list, the Glaswegian comic actually started out as a folk singer. His spoof version of D.I.V.O.R.C.E. reached the number one spot in the 70s, and this Village People parody will raise a giggle, too.
4. Flanders and Swann
As a double act, Michael Flanders and Donald Swann produced such comic numbers as The Hippopotamus and Madeira, M’Dear. This little ditty, The Gas Man Cometh, will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever invited workmen into their home…
5. Rich Hall
American stand-up Rich Hall has a gruffer, craggier alter ego: Otis Lee Crenshaw. The country musician and jailbird is usually found regaling audiences with tales of his redneck existence and former wives – all called Brenda. In this romantic song, he describes what would happen if a mugger accosted him and his girlfriend (warning: contains strong language).
6. Hugh Laurie
The Blackadder star, better known these days as misanthropic medic Gregory House, recently released an album of blues standards, Let Them Talk. But he showed his talent for musical comedy in his early work with Stephen Fry – here he performs a (prescient?) song called America.
7. Steve Martin
The wild and crazy guy is also a Grammy Award-winning banjo player, and enjoyed a Billboard Hot 100 hit in 1978 with novelty song King Tut. In this clip, he and bluegrass band the Steep Canyon Rangers bemoan the lack of songs for atheists.
8. Tim Minchin
The extrovert Aussie is known for songs tackling head-on big issues like love, religion…and his passion for cheese. He recently wrote the music and lyrics for the RSC’s production of Matilda the Musical, based on Roald Dahl’s children’s book. In this clip, though, he has a suggestion for the producers of Friday Night with Jonathan Ross…
9. Monty Python
You may not automatically associate the Pythons with musical comedy, but they did produce a few tunes – including the infamous Lumberjack Song. But they’re probably best known for Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, from Monty Python’s Life of Brian (warning: contains strong language).
10. Victoria Wood
Last in this alphabetical list, but certainly not least, the woman who tickles our funny bones also loves to tickle the ivories. Not only did she create Acorn Antiques: the Musical! and, more recently, That Day We Sang, she also gifted us the sparkling comic song that is The Ballad of Barry and Freda…
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