I'm really excited to get to go to New York this week to visit some friends and perform! June 7-11 marks the first annual New York Funny Songs Fest: a musical comedy festival in the lower eastside of New York City. My ukulele and I can't wait to go! (Yes my ukulele experiences hyperactive joy.) Since it's the first one, and kind of the first of anything like this, I decided to ask the producer hilarious comic Jessica Delfino some questions about it.
BH: What is the NY Funny Songs Fest?
JD: The NY Funny Songs Fest, I'm shocked and thrilled to say, is the first comedy music festival ever, that I know of, in New York City. The four-day hootenanny is centered in the Lower East Side of NYC, and features funny and quirky original comedic songs performed by a long list of terrifically amusing, clever and even famous people who tell jokes to a beat. There are about a dozen shows planned, featuring not only live performances but comedy music videos, free food, drink and treats, fanfare, pomp and circumstance, a bit of alcohol overindulgence and cake. The festival also falls on two birthdays: mine, and fellow comedy musician Mindy Raf's. So it's a gemini ho down, to boot.
BH: What are you most excited for about the festival?
JD: I'm excited to see a lot of performers who I have never seen live before. I think the "50 Funny Songs" show on Saturday at Tammany Hall will be great, opening night on Thursday at Lolita Bar will be a lot of fun, comedy karaoke on Saturday night will be at a venue the likes of which you've ever seen -- it's at a "hidden" Chinese karaoke bar. Casa Mezcal is a classy joint and I'm really excited to get to use that space on Friday night. I'm excited to celebrate birthdays with friends, and to perform so much in my own back yard. I'm looking forward to being able to party a lot and only be a three block walk from my house.
BH What is musical comedy? How do you think musical comedy fits into the comedy scene? How do you think music and comedy fit together and how do they differ?
JD: Comedy music is a joke -- or a series of jokes -- told to a beat. I call it comedy music, because the comedy comes first in comedy music. Musical comedy is what tourists pay a nice chunk of change to see on Broadway so they can ogle Matthew Broderick. Comedy music has got to be funny, that is, containing funny lyrics or other laughable or clever elements, or else it's just regular old music. Might as well start dancing or crying, or whatever you to do normal music. It's great and admirable to be a talented musician as part of the equation, and many of the performers who I know and love happen to be, but interestingly, it's not a deal breaker.
Comedy music is a valid and beloved part of the comedy scene with a large, adoring crossover audience. It could and should be even more embraced by comedy clubs and the comedy industry. I'm surprised that every comedy club doesn't have comedy music shows on a weekly basis. To not have a comedy music based show at a comedy club or a comedy TV channel is a missed opportunity for income and audience. I'm terrible at analogies, or else I'd probably try to put one here. But if I do, it'd be something like, it's like a toilet supplies store with no toilet pipes. See, I told you.
I think part of the problem is the name "comedy musicians." It doesn't exactly roll right off the tongue, it kind of more clunks and trips off the tongue, which is one reason this is the Funny Songs Fest and not the Comedy Musicians Fest. I've tried to think of a good name, but ditty mistress isn't quite right, nor is comedisician. Sounds like an S&M chamber run by Zoe Deschannel or some kind of crappy joke telling doctor. Sometimes I use "twisted minstrel" but it kind of conjures images of lutes and the black plague, not exactly the impression I'm aiming for.
Comedy and music are really a match made in heaven. Comedy songs are an immensely valuable tool, because of comedy's ability to make people laugh, something everyone loves and needs to do, and music's ability to get stuck in people's heads. So, comedy songs are excellent for when it comes to advertising or spreading a message. I still remember TV jingles from back when I was a kid. There is loads of potential here. Industries of all types should hire comedy musicians to write songs for commercials, videos and all marketing projects. A funny hook that gets stuck in people's head and gets repeated and shared and remembered is the epitome of viral, and it's effective. People come up to me years after seeing my show and sing lines of my songs to me, but any jokes of mine that people loved are so brutally butchered in the retelling, they can only be identified by their dental records.
BH: How has the genre of musical comedy evolved over the years? Where do you see it going?
JD: When I started performing funny songs around NYC a decade ago, I didn't personally know anyone else who was doing it. I was floored when I met Shauna Lane who invited me to be in her comedy band, "Hot Little Pieces of Ass" with Bex Schwartz on bass. Then, I met Adira Amram at a party singing her song, "I Wanna Do You In The Butt." I was so happy to meet people who were "like me." Comedy music had a schlocky image at one point, but so has all of comedy. It has evolved. People like Flight of the Concords and Garfunkel and Oates and Reggie Watts have put their cool stamp on it, which is great, because cool stuff is cool. That means comedy music is being seen more in the mainstream arena, and that means there will be more paid opportunities for everyone to get paid doing what they love to do. Which is good, because we're not known for being rich.
BH: What should audience members know about the festival coming in?
JD: We've got dozens of hilarious comedy musicians performing. Audience members will laugh, whether they "like comedy music" or not. Who doesn't like comedy music? Monsters, that's who. And even monsters will love Rob Paravonian. Tickets are $8 in advance, available on-line at www.brownpapertickets.com, or $10 at the door. There's cheap/free food plus drink at just about every show. All info and updates will be available on the website: www.nyfunnysongs.com, and on www.twitter.com/nyfunnysongs.
BH: What do you hope the outcome of the festival will be? (On the performers, on you as a producer, on the audience, on the musical comedy industry)
JD: My goals for the festival are three-fold: To grow and develop the comedy music community, to build paid opportunities and increase exposure for my peers and for myself in our chosen crazy profession and to grow the festival into something wonderful and long-lasting. I also want to take it light and have a good time with my friends and peers. Festivals can be so serious. And though the goals are legit, we are comedians at the end of the day, and it's important to us to laugh and have fun. And by that, I mean drink a lot.
Follow Barbara Holm on Twitter: www.twitter.com/barbara_holm