The Clements Blog
Music and Comedy
by Tim Benjamin
Thursday, 9th June 2011 | 1 comment
One of the great things about the richness of classical music is the opportunity for comedy it provides. Musicians always have a few jokes ready – for example, the ready supply of in-jokes about viola players ("How do you get a viola to play tremolo? – Write a semibreve and mark it 'solo'!") or percussionists ("How can you tell there's a percussionist at the door? – They don't know when to come in!"). Maybe humour helps long rehearsals pass quicker, or maybe musicians are just funnier people, but some classical musicians have taken matters to another level entirely.
Victor Borge, from Denmark (1909-2000), is possibly the most famous of musical comedians. He was born into a musical family and was quickly recognised as a child prodigy on the piano, became a concert pianist, and then developed a stand-up act involving jokes and piano music. However, when World War II broke out, he escaped from Europe and, fled to the USA with only a few dollars in his pocket, where he learned English from watching movies. He adapted his act for the American market, and after being hired by Bing Crosby he quickly became famous.
There are several websites dedicated to Borge, and plenty of videos too. Here's one featuring a different take on Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2:
The multi-talented Dudley Moore (1935-2002) was famous as an actor and composer as well as a comedian and a musician. Although he did not come from a musical background, he started out as a choirboy and took lessons on the piano and violin. He quickly became a highly talented pianist and organist, winning an organ scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he studied music. He acted on stage, on television and in several Hollywood movies, and also had a longstanding partnership in comedy with Peter Cook. Dudley Moore composed the soundtrack for several films and gave piano recitals, in which he would perform parodies of well-known classical pieces.
Here's a video of Dudley Moore performing a brillant musical parody composed in the style of Beethoven, based on the theme of the famous march Colonel Bogey:
Igudesman and Joo
This modern-day duo Igudesman & Joo comprises Aleksey Igudesman and Richard Hyung-ki Joo, who met while pupils at the Yehudi Menuhin School. They first created their music-and-comedy show, called "A Little Nightmare Music", in 2004, which as toured the world. Igudesman & Joo have been joined on-stage by some of the biggest names in classical music, including Emanuel Ax and Janine Jansen, and even performed for the 80th birthday of the great conductor Bernard Haitink. Reaching beyond classical music, they have also performed with Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees and Midge Ure of Ultravox.
Igudesman & Joo are very popular on YouTube so you might have come across them already – but if not, here's a hilarious sketch based on Rachmaninov's legendary enormous hands:
haha! Classic :)
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