“A legend that will last a lunchtime.” The marvelous Rutles were the creation of Monty Python’s Eric Idle and brilliant pop stylist Neil Innes (who worked with Monty Python and wrote all the songs for the Holy Grail movie). The Rutles started as a small segment on Idle’s Rutland Weekend Television show in the early 1970s and expanded (with the help of SNL’s Lorne Michaels and producer George Harrison — yes, that George Harrison) into the tele-movie All You Need is Cash, one of the first films of its kind and an inspiration for This Is Spinal Tap. A brilliant parody of the Beatles, Cash tells the story of Ron, Dirk, Stig, and Barry (Innes, Idle, Ricky Fataar and John Halsey) whose spot-on Beatles-style songs could have passed as long-lost tracks by the Fab Four themselves. In Innes’s hands, the Beatles’ “Get Back” becomes “Get Up and Go”, “Help!” becomes “Ouch!” and the mid-period psychedelia (wherein the Rutles discovered the therapeutic effects of tea) of “Penny Lane” gets diced into “Double Back Alley.” It isn’t just hilarious, it’s genius. | Rhino
Lil Dicky and Chris Brown have teamed up and delivered their take on famed body-swapping movie, Freaky Friday. Lil Dicky, who’s no stranger to big numbers, rose to fame after his video for “Ex-Boyfriend” garnered over a million views on YouTube in just 24 hours. The video and track’s opening scene finds the duo in a restaurant, where Lil Dicky fantasizes about what life must be like in the body of “cooler rappers.” After trading fantasies, both “wishing they could be somebody else,” Brown comes in hot with the vocals, acting as a confused Dicky, who’s now in his Brown’s body. After three-ish minutes of the pair being Freaky Friday’d, Dicky’s had great experience as Chris Brown while Brown remains disappointed. Both genuinely seemed to have the best time creating the video, though. Look out for cameos from Ed Sheeran, DJ Khaled and a laugh-cry-worthy bit from Kendal Jenner. I’m sure Lindsay Lohan would be proud of Dicky and Brown’s performance in one of the funniest videos of the year so far. | Dirty Burd
Crank calls might very well be one of the lowest forms of comedy: puerile and stupid, but also kind of hilarious. And they’ve been around forever. Early, much more innocent versions (“Is your refrigerator running?”, “Do you have Prince Albert in a can?”) gave way to the more modern iteration, which has included Crank Yankers, the Jerky Boys, Scharpling and Wurster and a running gag on the Simpsons. Crank calls are both a ubiquitous part of comedy history and a strange rite of passage for a lot of young boys. And in the pre-internet, pre-YouTube days, tapes of crank calls were almost a currency, a secret sonic handshake swapped and shared and traded, especially between bands on tour. It was the perfect way to while away the hours in a van and make new friends.
In the history of crank calling, there are a select few who have transformed this lowbrow comedic pastime into an actual art form, and probably the most revered among them is Longmont Potion Castle. He doesn’t even call what he does “crank calling,” instead referring to it as “absurdist phone work.” Longmont’s laconic drawl is instantly recognizable every time he introduces himself, using a bevy of baffling pseudonyms: Julio Ointment, Spicy Legato, Nipper. He’s often asking people to pay for insane, made-up orders (exotic lotion cookies, dog bowels, helium biscuits, hernias, bowel puppets) or looking to order odd items for himself (a wedge of mackerel). Some interactions escalate quickly, with LPC and his victim trading hilariously vicious and confusing barbs and suggesting all manner of surreal violence (“Gonna bring a tennis racquet to ya lip!”). And yet, somehow, his calls don’t come across as mean-spirited, even when the person on the other end loses their temper (which happens a lot). LPC always keeps his cool, whether he’s threatening to come over with a delivery of zebras that someone most definitely does not want, or trying to set up a delivery time for a box containing Andre the Giant’s bowel (at the bargain price of $189). His threats get more and more goofy and ridiculous, which only drives the confused folks on the phone even crazier. And yet, in a few cases, what starts out seemingly combative turns surprisingly heartwarming, which only further humanizes what in lesser hands could have ended up seeming more cruel than fun.
There are volumes upon volumes of Longmont Potion calls (15 as of this writing), many of which are interspersed with weird bits of thrash metal, psychedelic audio collages and bursts of freaked-out effects. In between bouts of side-splitting laughter, you’ll likely find yourself wondering why the heck these people didn’t just hang up, and thanking your lucky stars that they didn’t. |Kung Fu
Attention all comedy nerds! Get prepped for April Fool’s Day with a brand-new album from the legendary Jim Jefferies, streaming exclusively on Pandora starting March 30. On this Netflix special-turned-comedy album, Jim espouses his signature and unapologetic take on a range of topics like fatherhood, religion, Rosa Parks and even Bill Cosby. For folks that know him for his signature gun control bit, check out the track “Don’t Shake the Baby” for an even better sense the style Jeffries fans have known and loved for years. What are you waiting for? Get laughing! WARNING: VERY EXPLICIT CONTENT! | 800 Pound Gorilla
If you’ve never been lulled to paralysis by Over the Edge, the absurdist freeform radio show/album series that invented “fake news,” it’s not too late. Throughout the decades, Negativland’s discography has included several “best of” mixes, and online archives chronicle the show’s complete history. Jon Leidecker, aka “Wobbly” (whose birthday happens to be April 1) has recently taken over the show, the foundation of Negativland’s body of work, faithfully airing from midnight to 3 a.m. every Thursday night on KPFA in San Francisco. Each show swirls like a nightmarish, yet hypnotic escapade through layers of vintage news clips, music bytes, existential exclamations and hilarious narration. The Chopping Channel, the latest volume, is described on the band’s website as “a place on the dial where music — and lots more! — was swallowed, digested, exhumed, consumed and presented for sale at prices that didn’t last long.” And if the meticulousness of 40 years’ worth of carefully crafted weekly shows wasn’t enough to prove the ultimate concept, two grams of founder Don Joyce’s cremated ashes are included with limited edition Chopping Channel CDs “while supplies last.” | Seeland
My favorite comedy discovery of late has to be this quirky, catchy, half-rapped song about a cat named Professor Whiskers. Except the cat is really a man, despite having some cat-like qualities the lyrics painstakingly enumerate. And he comes to a very bad end. The track starts off cute and charming before quickly getting a lot ruder and more demented than an unsuspecting listener may have bargained for. Music-wise, it has some surprises, too…
“Professor Whiskers” is the work of a musical-multimedia comedy collective from Melbourne called Aunty Donna. They specialize in absurdist material that deliberately teeters on the edge of stupid, not funny, before spiraling off in some unexpectedly dark and undeniably hilarious directions. It’s almost as if they’re daring you to laugh. Aunty Donna’s debut album, The Album, drops on April 6 and features “Professor Whiskers” along with 15 other silly, surreal tracks. Both cat and comedy connoisseurs should check it out. | Etcetc
When Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie’s second FOTC album released in 2009, I plugged my iPhone into the aux input in my car and hit play with all the excitement of a sixth grade boy on pizza day. I hadn’t yet seen season two of the pair’s hit HBO series, so I had no context or visual reference for the folk-rap freakiness here, but it didn’t matter. “Hurt Feelings,” the album’s ode to emotional wounds, is my personal favorite. I mean, really: where else can you get the “bulletproof 24-carat gold tears of a rapper” over casseroles, wetsuit sizing and forgotten birthdays? Nowhere. Nine years later, I sing it to my surly, eye-rolling, screen-addicted teen when there’s no other logical parental response. It contributes to my sanity. Other hilarious cuts include “Sugalumps,” — no explanation necessary — “We’re Both in Love with a Sexy Lady,” an unfortunate tale of one woman, two less-than-suave blokes and an epileptic dog, and “Friends,” the kind of song you wish you’d sung in your high school glee club. There’s also songs for fashionistas, lovelorn dance fools, cannibals, man-whores and horn-dog angels — something for everyone, best enjoyed with friends who “pop and lock together” and a good set of speakers. | Sub Pop
I’m still waiting for Brian Regan’s career zenith, 2004’s I Walked on the Moon, to get the audio-only treatment. In the meantime, this 2008 set more than suffices as an introduction to this Master of the Mundane. Regan is a social satirist masquerading as a clueless oaf, a silly smart-ass who interrogates everyday absurdities without crossing into Bill Hicks cynicism or George Carlin paranoia. He rarely lingers on any one topic, with an opening five that touches on living with your parents, newspapers, World War II, speed reading and Point/Counterpoint. You’ll miss out on the visual component of Regan’s incredibly physical schtick, but you’ll be howling all the same. | Comedy Central
The inner monologue of a woman is a strange and chaotic thing, but Iliza Shlesinger captures it perfectly. She strikes a great balance between joking about our habits and traits — pumpkin and Pinterest, anyone? — while making insightful points about how we navigate the world. Instead of stifling her feminine qualities to fit into what has traditionally been a boy’s club, she unapologetically admits to the behaviors women are often mocked for and examines them in a refreshing light. Grab some fried shrimp and check out one of the funniest new comedians around. | Comedy Dynamics
In a perfect world, Bay Area comedian Kelly Anneken would star in a nihilist sitcom with Anthony Jeselnik that takes place at a failing Arby’s in Cleveland circa 1984. But until There’s the Beef airs as a Netflix Original, we’ll have to settle for Twenty Minutes to Sell, Anneken’s 2014 debut EP. Homegirl was splitting sides with her acerbic wit back when many comedians were still using “Really?” as a punchline. She opens with a hilarious bit about inventing a pizza that somehow cures syphilis and racism. OK, she doesn’t really say anything about that, but maybe if she reads this blurb, she can work it into her next routine. Until then, sit down, strap in and get ready for uproarious bits about eating disorders, the non-existence of God, drugs, depression, misogyny and miscarriages. While those topics may not seem funny on paper (or touchscreen), Anneken’s brilliance is her ability to effortlessly weave trauma and comedy into traumedy. |Kelly Anneken