Not just ukuleles, bad rhymes and gimmicks | Why you should give musical comedy another go

Not just ukuleles, bad rhymes and gimmicks

Why you should give musical comedy another go

■ By Jay Bennett, creator of musical comedy character, Yasmine Day

I was never a fan of musical comedy. I would go so far as calling it a ‘strong dislike’. Like how people don’t really like low-rise jeans or the TV show Glee. I didn’t HATE it. I just thought musical comedy was kind of lame.

My opinion changed when I - somewhat accidentally - created a comedy character who was an 1980s power-ballad singer, and the songs just kind of came with it.

As a recent convert, I’m here to tell you why you should be putting musical comedy shows at the top of your list at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. And yes, I will be breaking down my argument into points of Music and Lyrics, like that terrible Drew Barrymore film, Music and Lyrics’

First: The Music

People who perform musical comedy are often really great musicians and accomplished songwriters. It’s like going to a normal music gig, with all the catchy hooks you can sing along to and impressive riffs you can enjoy, but there’s also jokes! It feels like you’re getting two forms of entertainment for the price of one, which so for those bargain hunters among us, that’s a real steal.

Musical comedy takes a lot of its values from live music performance, so as an audience member, you’re getting a real show. It’s the opposite end of the spectrum to a low energy man and a mic - you’re getting the full performance. And people playing instruments or singing to the best of their ability is always a delight to behold.

Second: The Lyrics

I took an online lyric writing course at Berkelee College of Music during the pandemic, after I realised I was spending way too much time on Sims 3. I needed something to show for two years of confinement, aside from an intricately designed mansion facilitated by a shameless use of cheat codes.

This course turned out to be one of the most creatively fulfilling things I’ve ever done and I learned so much about songwriting. After three months of writing relatively serious songs, I put the skills I’d learned to the test and applied them to comedy.

So much of what I learned at Berklee could be applied to comedy songwriting. You have to set up your idea in the first verse, keeping it really simple; the chorus reveals the theme of the song (can often mean a punchline or ‘pull back and reveal’ in stand-up terms) and you develop this further in the second verse; the bridge is often used for reflection. All of this has to fit within a specific melodic rhythm, which makes the joke writing even more satisfying.

Third: Music and Lyrics

I am a musical theatre kid at heart, (Ethel Merman’s disco album is my top 10 on Spotify), so I cannot resist a good old fashioned ‘show’. I feel anyone who does musical comedy puts all of their skills on the table: the joke writing, the characters, the musicianship all in the name of entertainment.

It’s also an artform that works best in a live setting because it replicates a sort of ‘gig’ atmosphere, so the Edinburgh Fringe is a perfect place for a good hour of musical comedy.

If you feel like you’d like to see some new stuff you’ve never seen this year, why not give musical comedy a go? You can take a look at these great shows: Christy Coysh, Bangarang, Shelf, Hair and Simon David, White Gay.

And even mine(!): Yasmine Day: Songs in the Key of Me at PBH’s Free Fringe at Voodoo Rooms at 7.40pm.

Published: 8 Aug 2022

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