An essential part of human expression, humor plays a role in all forms of art, and humorous and comedic aspects have always been part of popular music. For the first time, The Routledge Companion to Popular Music and Humor draws together scholarship exploring how the element of humor interacts with the artistic and social aspects of the musical experience. Discussing humor in popular music across eras from Tin Pan Alley to the present, and examining the role of humor in different musical genres, case studies of artists, and media forms, this volume is a groundbreaking collection that provides a go-to reference for scholars in music, popular culture, and media studies.

While most scholars, when considering humor’s place in popular music, tend to focus on more "literate" forms, the contributors in this collection seek to fill in the gaps by surveying all kinds of humor, critical theories, and popular musics. Across eight parts, the essays in this collection explore topics both highbrow and low, including:

  • Parody and satire
  • Humor in rock and global music
  • Gender, sexuality, and politics
  • The music mockumentary
  • Novelty songs

Humor has long been a fixture of the popular music soundscape, whether on stage, in performance, on record, or on film. The Routledge Companion to Popular Music and Humor covers it all, presenting itself as the most comprehensive treatment of the topic to date.

chapter |9 pages

Popular Music and Humor

An Introduction

part 1|36 pages

Historical Antecedents

chapter 1|10 pages

Humor in Early Twentieth-Century Sheet Music

Problems of Contexts and Receptions

chapter 2|9 pages

What Might Have Been Left Behind

Popular African-American Female Singers in an Age of Liberal Reform

chapter 4|9 pages

Rubes, Rednecks, and Novelty Songs

The Comedic Tradition in Country Music

part 2|58 pages

Humor in Rock Music Genres

chapter 5|11 pages

Grumbly Grimblies, Frozen Dogs, and Other Boojums

Eccentricity from Chaucer to Carroll in English Psychedelia 1

chapter 7|10 pages

Humor in Metal Music

chapter 8|9 pages

“Anarchy in Woolworths”

Punk Comedy and Humor

chapter 9|7 pages

“Mommy’s Dead”

The Gallows Humor of Hardcore Punk

chapter 10|7 pages

Hip Hop’s Sophisticated Comedy

chapter 11|5 pages

“The Earth is doomed”

Geek Rock, Humor, and the End of the World

part 3|54 pages

Humor in Global Music

chapter 12|11 pages

From Kaiso to Get on Bad

Humor in Trinidad’s Calypso and Soca Music

chapter 13|8 pages

“Call de Contracta!”

Humor, Innovation, and Competition in Jamaican Music

chapter 15|9 pages

Humor in Ugandan Popular Music

chapter 16|9 pages

Absurdity and Nostalgia

Humor in K-Pop

chapter 17|8 pages

Negotiating Blackness in French Rural Spaces

Kamini’s Hip-Hop Comedy

part 4|44 pages

Selected Artists I

chapter 18|10 pages

The “Sly Wit” of Chuck Berry

chapter 19|8 pages

The British Invasion of the Wild West

Country Parody in the Rolling Stones and Other British Bands

chapter 20|9 pages

“I never said I was tasteful”

Lou Reed and the Classic Philosophy of Humor

chapter 22|8 pages

“You ain’t laughing, are you?”

Humor, Misery, and the Replacements

part 5|52 pages

Selected Artists II

chapter 23|9 pages

The Coasters

Funny and Not So Funny

chapter 24|9 pages

Lonnie Donegan

From Trad Jazz to King of Skiffle and Variety Star

chapter 25|9 pages

Mountain Butterfly

Dolly Parton’s Transformational Persona in American Country Music

chapter 27|7 pages

“Dare to be Stupid”

Covering “Weird Al” Yankovic

part 6|36 pages

The Music Mockumentary

chapter 29|11 pages

“It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever”

A Genealogy of the Music Mockumentary

chapter 30|7 pages

“We must be flipping out”

Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels as a Carnivalesque Subversion of Pop Music

chapter 31|8 pages

All You Need Is Cash

Skewering a Legend with the Prefab Four

chapter 32|9 pages

This Chapter Goes to Eleven

This Is Spinal Tap and the Blurring of Authenticity and Fabrication

part 7|38 pages

Popular Music and Humor on Screen

chapter 33|10 pages

“Goodnight to the Rock ’N’ Roll Era”

Pavement and the Negotiation of Ambivalence in 1994

chapter 34|9 pages

Looking for the Joke with a Microscope

The Intersection of Music and Humor in Repo Man

chapter 35|11 pages

Humor in the “Booty Video”

Female Artists Talk Back Through the Hip-Hop Intertext

chapter 36|8 pages

Of Shreds, Spoofs, and Participatory Cultures

Parodies of Popular Music Videos in Web 2.0 Contexts

part 8|51 pages

Gender, Sexuality, and Politics

chapter 38|7 pages

“Don’t I look like a Halle Berry poster?”

Humor and Irony in Women’s Hip Hop

chapter 39|8 pages

We Don’t Know How Lucky We Are

Masculine Humor in New Zealand Popular Music

chapter 40|7 pages

From “Tsar Nikolai, Go F*ck Your Mother!” to “Putin, Go F*ck Yourself!”

Musical Humor in Oppressive Regimes

chapter 41|11 pages

After the Laughter

Al-Manawahly’s Songs and the Poetics of Subversive Humor in Egypt

chapter |9 pages


Unintentional Humor in Popular Music