In this world, lots of people will tell you that you gotta be a bad-ass to be a rock star and you can only write songs about serious subjects like love and everything wrong with the world. However, through history, several bands and performers will emerge and show us that music can be about anything and truly anyone can be a rock star.
They come in many names - Johnathan Coulton, Buckner & Garcia and Royish Good Looks have all made awesome and hilarious songs about the things they love, but to me there have always been 10 bands and musicians that always defined their own corner of the genre so in this blog post I will be listing them in ascending order as I get into why they're legends within the world of musical comedy and/or nerd rock.
10 - Stephen Lynch
What Stephen Lynch does with his music is very similar to what Adam Sandler will do when he's not making awesome movies - get on stage at comedy venues, play lots of awesome songs in front of live audience and make a CD out of it so people all over the world can die laughing at his hilarious masterpieces.
His songs are genius as they mock both daily life and pop culture, such as his song about Jesus' not-so-holy brother Craig Christ, a narrative from the perspective of the D&D nerd everybody remembers from high school, how rich he'll be when his grandfather dies, the theme song medley for the audience's own R-rated superheroes and (my personal favorite) the happy, catchy and extremely ironic cute little song from the perspective of Satan. This guy is a genius, if you haven't heard of him I recommend you check him out.
9 - I Fight Dragons
World-renowned for the catchy theme song of ABC's The Goldbergs and their empowering anthem to nerds everywhere titled The Geeks Will Inherit the Earth, I Fight Dragons made genre-defying history when they combined the pop rock music of the early-2000s with the chiptune sounds of retro video games. With their epic concept album KABOOM! getting into themes of breaking the chains of society and finding belonging through fighting for what you love, the Brian Mazzaferri-fronted guild of gamers truly defined the term "nerd rock" as total nerds who freaking rock.
Their song cRaZie$ had such an awesome video where the band's in a vacation house fighting zombies with a bunch of Nintendo equipment such as Power Gloves and Duck Hunt guns, and that really shows you how cool and imaginative these guys are. They combined two completely different genres to make a fantastic, original and never before heard sound that perfectly fits the universe and aesthetic of their music, so I find these guys super freaking cool and they're definitely on my list.
8 - The Axis of Awesome
As the brainchild of Jordan Raskopoulos, Lee Naimo and Benny Davis, the now broken-up Australian comedy rock trio The Axis of Awesome lives up to it's name for their music truly is awesome while incredibly hilarious. Best known for their song 4 Chords, a giant medley of 47 different popular songs (including Don't Stop Believin', When I Come Around and Poker Face) that all have the same basic chord structure, this trio put out several amazing albums over their 12 year career.
The reason I love The Axis of Awesome so much is because while most other icons of the musical comedy genre will just be using the medium of music to tell funny stories, they use it to step outside of the music and make hilarious comments about song arrangement, music theory and the tropes within genres which I've never noticed before. The Axis though, being the geniuses they are, point these out with ease in their songs like How to Write a Love Song and In the Club Tonight so for that their songs are one-of-a-kind and instantly recognizable.
7 - Epic Rap Battles of History
Created by rappers Nice Peter and Epic Lloyd in 2010, I will always see the Epic Rap Battles of History series as a genius idea and the single best thing to come out of the nerdcore sub-genre. Having made battles featuring all kinds of icons both living and dead, real and fictional all played by other musicians or rappers such as "Weird Al" Yankovic, Snoop Dogg and T-Pain, ERBH has put out countless hilarious videos that have me dying of laughter every time.
Each and every battle is fantastically directed and full of well-researched, genius and hilarious rap lyrics so as someone who loves any kind of mashup or crossover, seeing my favorite fictional characters clash with historic figures is something I'm definitely gonna get a kick out of. Harry Potter vs. Luke Skywalker, Sir Isaac Newton vs. Bill Nye, Lewis & Clark vs. Bill & Ted and Artists vs. TMNT are all classics, but my personal favorite has gotta be Stan Lee vs. Jim Henson. It's just so awesome!
6 - Matt Farley of Motern Media
After interviewing Matt himself on my podcast, I still can't wrap my head around the fact that he's written over 23,500 songs about poop, celebrities, cities and more. Under a variety of well known band names such as The Toilet Bowl Cleaners, Papa Razzi and the Photogs, The Very Nice Interesting Singer Man and more, Matt has cranked out more songs than most other musicians will do in their entire careers and he truly understands the craft of songwriting to an exemplary level.
Tons of his songs are absolutely hilarious and always have me asking stuff like "how does he think of this stuff?" and "how can I get this funny?" and even after all my hours of Motern Media listening, I still can't stop laughing at his masterpieces about a new store that still looks like the Pizza Hut it once was, getting poop stuck in your fingernails, wanting to give Timothee Chalamet your phone number and playing tag with flashlights, so you're definitely gonna wanna check out Matt's stuff if you haven't already. Here's our interview with him - https://bit.ly/MattFarley and below is him on The Tonight Show:
5 - Nerf Herder
As the Raining Tacos guy Parry Gripp's rise to fame, not only is Nerf Herder the earliest known band to refer to themselves as "nerd rock" but they took influence from "Weird Al" Yankovic and Dr. Demento while claiming their fame in the pop punk movement at the turn of the millennium. Since they formed in 1994, Nerf Herder has put out several awesome songs about franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek and Ghostbusters along with tracks about iconic bands like Van Halen, Rush and Pantera.
To me as a songwriter, this band embodies everything I want to be. The combination of Gripp's bitter punk rock anger with the hilarious, heartfelt irony in the lyrical storytelling, use of awesome metaphors from geeky stuff for events in everyday life and their music landing on the corner of pop punk and nerd rock while influencing both genres creates a one-of-a-kind blend, and to me there's really gotta be more stuff like it.
4 - The Lonely Island
Formed by comedians Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone in 2001, The Lonely Island became a household name and popularized comedy rap with their series of Saturday Night Live Digital Shorts that accompanied their songs music-video style. They've put out several fantastic videos teaming up with some great mainstream pop musicians like Justin Timberlake, Rihanna and Lady Gaga along with rappers like Snoop Dogg, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar and more.
I got into these guys about a month ago, and I've been listening to them non-stop since. All their songs tell super hilarious stories with really funny details like how Andy Samberg hates boiled goose, how awesome Jorma Taccone feels when he wears gold chains over his turtleneck sweater, how Akiva Schaffer enjoys riding dolphins and how weirded out the three of them are when their guest musician Michael Bolton just wants to sing about Pirates of the Carribean. Their songs and videos are absolutely hilarious and I have the hardest time picking my favorite, but Threw it on the Ground is definitely up there:
3 - Kirby Krackle
Ever since 2009, Kirby Krackle has put out countless fantastic, catchy and heartfelt songs about video games, comic books and all things pop culture. Featuring the work of singer-songwriter Kyle Stevens, I'll always recognize Kirby Krackle as the first band to gather all the right influences for nerd rock to happen and put together the perfect formula for songs of that genre. Start to finish, every Kirby Krackle album shows exemplary use of lyrical storytelling, detailed song arrangement and clever morals, which is a lot of what nerd rock and musical comedy is all about.
What I love most about Kirby Krackle is that it seems Kyle Stevens can do just about anything with his songwriting. Kirby Krackle's put out some first-person narratives from the perspectives of pop culture characters such as It Suits You (Poe Dameron), Ring Capacity (Hal Jordan) and In Another Castle (Mario) along with songs making a strong comment on nerd culture as a whole like Teabagged, Another New Crisis and Geek Culture is Dead not to mention some serious love songs such as Parachute, You & I and Take You Out Tonight. They're basically to nerd rock as the Ramones are to punk, so they're easily near the top of this list.
2 - Tenacious D
As the genius of Hollywood superstar Jack Black and his partner-in-crime Kyle Gass, Tenacious D claim themselves to be "the greatest band in the universe", and in my eyes that's not very far off. For 28 years now the D has made brilliant, one-of-a-kind music combining the work of rock acts like Dio, The Who, Meat Loaf, AC/DC, Ozzy Osborne, Van Halen and Led Zepplin with Kyle Gass' raw shredding of the acoustic guitar and Jack Black's weird rock scat which totally rules.
They've written fantastic songs about stuff like making the best song in the world but forgetting what it was, having a rock off with Satan, the jealousy the roadie feels over the band's groupies and Jack Black hallucinating that Bigfoot is his dad. Just the bizarre weirdness of their music, the one-of-a-kind combination of countless different things and the insane charisma the two put into all their recordings and performances truly makes Tenacious D one of the most influential musical comedy acts in history.
1 - "Weird Al" Yankovic
The way I'll always see both musical comedy and nerd rock is that you can define the history of either genre into two eras - before Al, and after Al. He collected all the pieces put into place by musicians like Dr. Demento, Allen Sherman and Tom Lehrer so he could really take musical comedy to new grounds by making parodies anyone could crack up at and awesome MTV videos to go along with them. Some consider him the most successful performer in the world of musical comedy and has been often referred to as the King of Nerd Rock, so he definitely has to be on top of this list.
The reason I've always seen Weird Al as the number one for this type of ranking is he showed the world something very important. When he gets up on stage in his Hawaiian shirt with his crazy hair, holding his accordion proud while he sings out the changed lyrics to an already popular song to make it about food, pop culture or just about anything you can think of, Al proves to the universe that even the biggest nerds can be legendary rock stars, and in-short, anyone can be anything. That's what Al stands for, and that's what most other icons on this list show us, too.
Jack Black, Andy Samberg, Parry Gripp - they all show people that anyone can be anything while being themselves, and Weird Al was one of the first people to embrace that. When he started out with classics like Another One Rides the Bus, Girls Just Wanna Have Lunch and Like a Surgeon, he changed musical comedy and he kept lasting power till this day with later hits like The Saga Begins, Amish Paradise and Party in the C.I.A.. He's still a cultural icon today, with his upcoming graphic novel The Illustrated Al, his recent appearance in LEGO Star Wars: Summer Vacation and the Daniel Radcliffe-starred Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, so since his first album in 1983 Weird Al has been an absolute legend.
So those are who I consider to be the ten best musical comedy and nerd rock bands/musicians in history! Who are your favorite musical comedy and nerd rock acts? Let me know in the comments below! Thank you for reading and remember that anyone can be a rock star.